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Full text of "In pursuit of spring"

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B. ipbillipe Stewart, B.B., xx.. 




OB. A.D. 1892. 



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ENGLISH 



LONDON 




CHANNEL 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING 



IN PURSUIT OF 
SPRING 



BY 

EDWARD THOMAS 



THOMAS NELSON AND SONS 

LONDON, EDINBURGH, DUBLIN 
AND NEW YORK 



TO 

DOROTHY 

AND 

VIVIAN LOCKE ELLIS 



First Published April 1914 



CONTENTS. 



I. IN SEARCH OF SPRING ... 9 

II. THE START : LONDON TO GUILDFORD . 34 

III. GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE . . 76 

IV. FROM DUNBRIDGE OVER SALISBURY 

PLAIN 128 

V. THREE WESSEX POETS . . .180 

VI. THE AVON, THE Biss, THE FROME . 199 

VII. TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET . 216 

VIII. SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER . 235 

IX. BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA . . . 265 

X. THE GRAVE OF WINTER 290 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 

From Drawings by Ernest Hazelhurst. 



Paddington Canal .... Frontispiece 

Cuckoo Flowers ...... 32 

A Passing Storm ...... 80 

Crosscombe . . . . . . .176 

Glastonbury Tor . . . . . .192 

Kilre . . 208 



IN PUKSUIT OF SPEING. 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 

T^HIS is the record of a journey from London 
* to the Quantock Hills to Nether Stowey, 
Kilve, Crowcombe, and West Bagborough, to the 
high point where the Taunton-Bridgwater road 
tops the hills and shows all Exmoor behind, all the 
Mendips before, and upon the left the sea, and 
Wales very far off. It was a journey on or with a 
bicycle. The season was Easter, a March Easter. 
"A North-Easter, probably?" No. Nor did 
much north-east go to the making of it. I will 
give its pedigree briefly, going back only a month 
that is, to the days when I began to calculate, or 
guess methodically, what the weather would be 
like at Easter. 

Perhaps it was rather more than a month before 
Easter that a false Spring visited London. But J 



10 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

will go back first a little earlier, to one of those 
great and notable days after the turn of the year 
that win the heart so, without deceiving it. 

The wind blew from the north-west with such 
peace and energy together as to call up the image 
of a good giant striding along with superb gestures 
like those of a sower sowing. The wind blew and 
the sun shone over London. A myriad roofs 
laughed together in the light. The smoke and the 
flags, yellow and blue and white, waved tumultu- 
ously, straining for joy to leave the chimneys and 
the flagstaffs, like hounds sighting their quarry. 
The ranges of cloud bathing their lower slopes in 
the brown mist of the horizon had the majesty of 
great hills, the coolness and sweetness and white- 
ness of the foam on the crests of the crystal foun- 
tains, and they were burning with light. The 
clouds did honour to the city, which they encircled 
as with heavenly ramparts. The stone towers and 
spires were soft, and luminous as old porcelain. 
There was no substance to be seen that was not 
made precious by the strong wind and the light 
divine. All was newly built to a great idea. The 
flags were waving to salute the festal opening of 
the gates in those white walls to a people that 
should presently surge in and onward to take 
possession. Princely was to be the life that had 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 11 

this amphitheatre of clouds and palaces for its 
display. 

Of human things, only music if human it can 
be called was fit to match this joyousness and 
this stateliness. What, I thought, if the pomp 
of river and roof and cloudy mountain walls 
of the world be made ready, as so often they 
had been before, only for the joy of the invisible 
gods ? For who has not known a day when 
some notable festival is manifestly celebrated by 
a most rare nobleness in the ways of the clouds, 
the colours of the woods, the glitter of the 
waters, yet on earth all has been as it was wont 
to be? 

So far, the life of men moving to and fro across 
the bridges was like the old life that I knew, though, 
down below, upon the sparkling waters many birds 
were alighting, or were already seated like wondrous 
blossoms upon the bulwarks of a barge painted in 
parrot colours red and green. When would the 
entry begin ? 

In the streets, for the present, the roar continued 
of the inhuman masses of humanity, amidst which 
a child's crying for a toy was an impertinence, a 
terrible pretty interruption of the violent moving 
swoon. Between the millions and the one no 
agreement was visible. The wind summoned the 



12 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

colour in a girl's cheeks. There, one smiled with 
inward bliss. Another talked serenely with lovely 
soft mouth and wide eyes that saw only one other 
pair as the man next her bent his head nearer. 
The wind wagged the tails of blue or brown fur 
about the forms of luxurious tall women, and 
poured wine into their bodies, so that then* com- 
plexions glowed under their violet hats. But in 
one moment the passing loveliness of spirit, or 
form, or gesture, sank and was drowned in the 
oceanic multitude. A boy had just met his father 
at a railway station, and was glad ; he held the 
man's hand, and was trotting gently, trying to get 
him to run he failed : then in delight put his arm 
to his father's waist and was carried along thus, 
half lifted from the ground, for several yards, 
smiling and chattering like a bird on a waving 
branch. The two obstructed others, who took 
a step to left or right in disdain or impatience. 
Only a child at an alley entrance saw and 
laughed, wishing she were his sister, and had 
his father. A moment, and these also were 
swallowed up. 

I came to broader pavements. Here was less 
haste ; and women went in and out of the crowd, 
not only parallel to the street, but crosswise here 
and there ; and a man could go at any pace, not 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 13 

of necessity the crowd's. Some of the most beau- 
tiful civilized women of the world moved slowly 
and musically in an intricate pattern, which any 
one could watch freely ; they had a background of 
lustrous jewellery, metal -work and glass, gorgeous 
cloths and silks, and many had a foil in the stiff 
black and white male figures beside them. They 
moved without fear. Stately, costly, tender, 
beautiful, nevertheless, though so near, they were 
seen as in a magic crystal that enshrines the re- 
mote and the long dead. They walked as in 
dream, regardlessly smiling. They cast their proud 
or kind eyes hither and thither. Once in the in- 
tense light of a jeweller's shop, spangled with 
pearls, diamonds, and gold, a large red hand, cold 
and not quite clean, appeared from within, holding 
in three fearful, careful fingers a brooch of gold 
and diamonds, which it placed among the others, 
and then withdrew itself slowly, tremulously, lest 
it should work harm to those dazzling cressets. 
The eyes of the women watched the brooch : the 
red hand need not have been so fearful ; it was 
unseen the soul was hid. Straight through the 
women, in the middle of the broad pavement, and 
very slowly, went an old man. He was short, and his 
patched overcoat fell in a parallelogram from his 
shoulders almost to the pavement. From under- 



14 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

neath his little cap massive gray curls sprouted 
and spread over his upturned collar. Just below 
the fringe of his coat his bare heels glowed red. 
His hands rested deep in his pockets. His face 
was almost concealed by curls and collar : all that 
showed itself was the glazed cold red of his cheeks 
and large, straight nose, and the glitter of gray 
eyes that looked neither to left nor to right, but 
ahead and somewhat down. Not a sound did he 
make, save the flap of rotten leather against feet 
which he scarcely raised lest the shoes should fall 
off. Doubtless the composer of the harmonies of 
this day could have made use of the old man 
doubtless he did ; but as it was a feast day of the 
gods, not of men, I did not understand. Around 
this figure, clad in complete hue of poverty, the 
dance of women in violet and black, cinnamon 
and green, tawny and gray, scarlet and slate, and 
the browns and golden browns of animals' fur, wove 
itself fantastically. The dance heeded him not, nor 
he the dance. The sun shone bright. The wind 
blew and waved the smoke and the flags wildly 
against the sky. The horses curved their stout 
necks, showing their teeth, trampling, massing 
head by head in rank and cluster, a frieze as mag- 
nificent as the procession of white clouds gilded, 
rolling along the horizon. 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 15 

That evening, without thought of Spring, I began 
to look at my maps. Spring would come, of course 
nothing, I supposed, could prevent it and I 
should have to make up my mind how to go west- 
ward. Whatever I did, Salisbury Plain was to be 
crossed, not of necessity but of choice ; it was, how- 
ever, hard to decide whether to go reasonably 
diagonally in accordance with my western purpose, 
or to meander up the Avon, now on one side now 
on the other, by one of the parallel river- side roads, 
as far as Amesbury. Having got to Amesbury, 
there would be much provocation to continue up 
the river among those thatched villages to Upavon 
and to Stephen Duck's village, Charlton, and the 
Pewsey valley, and so, turning again westward, in 
sight of that very tame White Horse above Alton 
Priors, to include Urchfont and Devizes. 

Or, again, I might follow up the Wylye west- 
ward from Salisbury, and have always below me 
the river and its hamlets and churches, the wall 
of the Plain always above me on the right. Thus 
I should come to Warminster and to the grand 
west wall of the Plain which overhangs the town. 

The obvious way was to strike north-west over 
the Plain from Stapleford up the Winterbourne, 
through cornland and sheepland, by Shrewton 
and Tilshead, and down again to other waters 



16 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

at West Lavington. Or at Shrewton I could turn 
sharp to the west, and so visit solitary Chitterne 
and solitary Imber. 

I could not decide. If I went on foot, I could 
do as I liked on the Plain. There are green roads 
leading from everywhere to everywhere. But, on 
the other hand, it might be necessary at that time 
of year to keep walking all day, which would mean 
at least thirty miles a day, which was more than I 
was inclined for. The false Spring, the weather 
that really deluded me to think it shameful not 
to trust it, came a month later, and one of its 
best days was in London. 

Many days in London have no weather. We are 
aware only that it is hot or cold, dry or wet ; that 
we are in or out of doors ; that we are at ease or 
not. This was not one of them. Rain lashed and 
wind roared in the night, enveloping my room in 
a turbulent embrace as if it had been a tiny 
ship in a great sea, instead of one pigeon-hole in 
a thousand-fold columbarium deep in London. 
Dawn awakened me with its tranquillity. The air 
was sombrely sweet ; there was a lucidity under the 
gloom of the clouds ; the air barely heaved with 
the ebb of storm ; and even when the sun was 
risen it seemed still twilight. The jangle of the 
traffic made a wall round about the quiet in which 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 17 

I lay embedded. I scarcely heard the sound of 
it; but I could not forget the wall. Within the 
circle of quiet a parrot sang the street songs of 
twenty years ago very clearly, over and over 
again, almost as sweetly as a blackbird. I had 
heard him many times before, but now he sang 
differently I did not know or consider how or 
why. The song was different as the air was. Yet 
I could not directly feel the air, because the win- 
dows were tightly shut against the soot of four 
neighbouring chimney-stacks. 

Out of doors the business and pleasure of the day 
kept me a close though a moving prisoner. Ah* 
the morning and afternoon I was glad to see only 
one thing that was not a human face. It was a 
portico of high fluted columns rising in a cliff above 
an expanse of gravel walks and turf. The gray 
columns were blackened with soot splashes. The 
grass and the stone were touched with the sweet- 
ness that was in the early air and in the bird's 
song before the rain had dried and the wind quite 
departed. Both were blessed with the same pure 
and lovely union of humid coldness, gloom, and 
lucidity, so that the portico appeared for a mo- 
ment to be the entrance to halls of unimagined 
beauty and holiness, as if I should be admitted 

through them into the cloud-ramparted city of 

2 



18 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

that earlier day. Nevertheless, I found all in- 
side exactly as it had always been ; not only 
the expectation but even the memory of what 
had fostered it was wiped out without one pause 
of disappointment. The sunlight, now and then 
flooding and astonishing the interior, fell through 
windows that shut out both sky and earth, into an 
atmosphere incapable of acknowledging the divinity 
of the rays ; they were alien, disturbing, hostile. 
There was something childish in these displays, so 
wasteful and passionate, before the spectacled eyes 
of a number of people reading books in the mum- 
mied air of a library. 

Once more on this February day, at four in the 
afternoon, my eyes were unsealed and awakened. 
The ah* in the streets of big dark houses was still 
and hazy, but overhead hung the loftiest sky I 
had ever seen, and the finest of fine-spun clouds 
stretched across the pale blue in long white reefs. 
In a few moments I was again under a roof. This 
time it was the house of a friend, removed from 
busy thoroughfares, very silent within. As the 
old country servant, faintly dingy and sinister, led 
me up to the usual room, the staircase, and both 
the shut and the half -seen apartments on either 
hand, were mysterious and depressing, with some- 
thing massive and yet temporary, as if in a dream 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 19 

mansion of shadows. Nothing definite was sug- 
gested by these doors ; anything was possible be- 
hind them. Right up to the familiar dark room 
I always felt the same dull trouble. Then the dim 
room opened before me : I heard the masterly, 
kind voice. 

It was a high, large room with many corners 
that I had never explored. The furniture gloomed 
vaguely above and around the little space that 
was crossed by our two voices. The long win- 
dows were some yards away, and between them 
and us stood a heavy table, a heavy cabinet, and 
several chairs. Never had I been to the window 
and looked out, nor did I to-day. No lamp was 
lit. We talked, we were silent, and I was content. 
Now and then I looked towards the window, which 
framed only the corner of a house near by, the 
chimneys of farther houses, and a pallor of sky 
between and above them. I was aware of the 
slow stealing away of day. I knew it was slow, 
and twice I looked at a clock to make sure that I 
was not being deceived. I was aware also of the 
beauty of this slow fading. No wind moved, nor 
was any movement anywhere heard or seen. The 
stillness and silence were great ; the tranquillity 
was even greater : I dipped into it and shared it 
while I listened and talked. Several times two or 



20 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

three children passed beneath the window and 
chattered in loud, shrill voices, but they were un- 
seen. Far from disturbing the tranquillity, the 
sounds were steeped in it ; the silence and still- 
ness of the twilight saturated and embalmed them. 
But pleasant as in themselves they were entirely, 
they were far more so by reason of what they 
suggested. 

These voices and this tranquillity spoke of Spring. 
They told me what an evening it was at home. I 
knew how the first blackbird was whistling in 
the broad oak, and, farther away some very far 
away many thrushes were singing in the chill, 
under the pale light fitly reflected by the faces of 
earliest primroses. The sound of lambs and of a 
rookery more distant blended in soft roaring. 
Underfoot everything was soaked soaked clay, 
soaked dead grass ; and the land was agleam with 
silver rain pools and channels. I foresaw tempest 
of rain and wind on the next day. Perhaps 
imagination of dark, withered, and sodden land, and 
the change threatening, helped to perfect that 
sweetness which was not wholly of earth. The 
songs of the birds were to cease, and, in their 
place, blackbirds would be clinking nervously in 
impenetrable thickets long after sundown, when 
only a narrowing pane of almost lightless light 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 21 

divided a black mass of cloud from a black horizon. 
As in the morning streets the essence of the beauty 
was lucidity in the arms of gloom, so it was now 
in the clear twilight fields gliding towards black 
night, tempest, and perhaps a renewal of Winter. . . . 
Then a lamp was carried in. The children's voices 
had gone. In a little while I rose, and, going out, 
saw precisely that long pane of light that I should 
have seen low in the west, had I been standing 
fifty miles off, looking towards Winchester. 

Another evening like this one followed. To the 
south and west of me the Downs were spread out 
beyond eyesight. Their flowing and quiet lines 
were an invitation, a temptation. I should have 
liked to set forth immediately, to travel day and 
night with that flow and quiet until I reached the 
nightingale's song, the apple blossom, the perfume 
of sunny earth. But nothing was more impossible. 
The next day was sleet. The most I could do 
was to plan so that perhaps I should find myself 
travelling in one of those preludes to Summer 
which are less false than this one. The beautiful 
Easters I had known came back to me : Easters of 
five years, twenty years ago ; early Easters when 
the chiff chaff was singing on March 20 hi a soft 
wind ; later Easters, when Good Friday brought 
the swallow, Saturday the cuckoo, Sunday the 



22 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

nightingale. I did not forget Easters of snow and 
of north wind. In the end I decided to trust to 
luck to start on Good Friday on the chance that I 
should meet fine weather at once or in a day or two. 
I would go out in that safe, tame fashion, looking 
for Spring. The date of Easter made nightingales 
and cuckoos improbable ; but I might hope for 
the chiffchaff, an early martin, some stitchwort 
blossoms, cuckoo flowers, some larch green, some 
blackthorn white. I began to think of what the 
days would be like. Would there be an invisible 
sky and a coldish wind, yet some ground for hop- 
ing, because the blackbirds would be content in 
their singing at evening, and the dead leaves that 
trundle in the road would have decreased to a 
handful ? Perhaps there would be another of these 
dimly promising days. On the third, would the 
misty morning clear slowly, the Downs barely 
visible under the low drift, behind which the sky is 
caked in cloud, with a dirty silver light from the 
interstices ? And would there be one place in this 
sky which it would be impossible to gaze at, and 
would this at last become dazzling, would the drift 
vanish, and the Downs and half the valley be hid 
in the foundations of a stationary mass of sunlit 
white cloud ? Would the earth begin to crumble 
in the warm breeze ? Would the bees be heard 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 23 

instead of the wind ? Would the jackdaws play 
and cry far up in the pale vault ? Would the low 
east become a region of cumulus clouds, old-ivory- 
coloured, receding with sunny edges one behind 
the other infinitely? Would the evening sky be 
downy-white and clouded softly over the dark 
copses and the many songs interwoven at seven ? 
Would a clear still night follow, with Lyra and a 
multitude of stars ? So I questioned. But I will 
relate something of what happened in the month 
of waiting and preparation. 

Next day the north-east wind began to prevail, 
making a noise as if the earth were hollow and 
rumbling all through the bright night, and all day a 
rhythmless and steady roar. The earth was being 
scoured like a pot. If snow fell, there was no 
more of it in the valleys than if a white bird had 
been plucked by a sparrow-hawk : on the hills it 
lasted longer, but as thin as rice the day after 
a wedding. The wind was eager enough to scour 
me. Doubtless, an old man or two, and an infant 
or two, it both scoured and killed. The yellow 
celandine flowers were bright but shrivelled ; the 
ivy gleamed blackly on the banks beside the white 
roads. These were days of great rather than 
of little things ; the north-east wind that was 
cleaning, and the world that was being cleaned. 



24 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

The old man, the child, and the celandine, mat- 
tered little. Such days are good to live in, better 
to remember. 

Very meekly, and in the night, the north-east 
wind gave up its power to the south. Mild, sweet, 
and soft days followed, when the earth was an 
invalid certain of recovery, with many delicate smiles 
and languors and fatigues, and little vain fears or 
recollections. By St. David's Day violets began to 
disclose themselves to children and some lovers. . . . 
Copses, hedges, roadsides, and brooksides were 
taken possession of by millions of primroses in 
thick, long-stemmed clusters ; their green, only 
just flowerlike, scent was suited perfectly to the 
invalid but strengthening earth. 

Then for most of a day it rained, and what was 
done under cover of that deliberate, irresistible 
rain, only a poet can tell. There are more trees 
than men on the earth, more flowers than children, 
and on that day the earth was such as I can imagine 
it before man or god had been invented. It was 
an earlier than prehistoric day. The sun rose 
glimmeringly in mist, as yet not strongly, but sure 
of victory over chaos. What will happen ? What 
shall come of it ? What will be the new thing ? 
On such a day the song of birds was first heard 
upon the earth. ... As I went along I found my- 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 25 

self repeating with an inexplicable and novel fer- 
vour the words, " Glory be to the Father, and to the 
Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the begin- 
ning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, 
Amen." No possible supplication to " Earth, 
Ocean, Air Eternal Brotherhood," could have been 
more satisfying. From tune to time other incan- 
tations also seemed appropriate, as, for example, 

" Oh, Santiana's won the day 

Away, Santiana ! 
Santiana's won the day 

Along the plains of Mexico." 

There followed an ordinary fine day, warm but 
fresh, with more than one light shower out of the 
south-west during the afternoon ; after that a 
cloudy, rainless day, which people did not call 
fine, though the chaffinches and thrushes enjoyed 
it wholly ; and after that, rain again, and the 
elms standing about like conspirators in the mist 
of the rain, preparing something ; then a day, 
warm and bright, of a heavenly and yet also a 
spirited loveliness the best day of the year, when 
the larks' notes were far beyond counting ; and 
after that wind and rain again ; a day of great 
wind and no rain ; then two days of mild, quick 
air, both glooming into black nights of tumult, 



26 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

with frosty, penitent-looking dawns. Snow suc- 
ceeded, darkening the air, whitening the sky, on 
the wings of a strong wind from the north of north- 
west, for a minute only, but again and again, 
until by five o'clock the sky was all blue except at 
the horizon, where stood a cluster of white moun- 
tains, massive and almost motionless, in the south 
above the Downs, and round about them some 
dusky fragments not fit to be used in the composi- 
tion of such mountains. They looked as if they 
were going to last for ever. Yet by six o'clock 
the horizon was dim, and the clouds all but passed 
away, the Downs clear and extended ; the black- 
bird singing as if the world were his nest, the wind 
cold and light, but dying utterly to make way for 
a beautiful evening of one star and many owls 
hooting. 

The next day was the missel-thrush's and the 
north-west wind's. The missel-thrush sat well up 
in a beech at the wood edge and hailed the rain 
with his rolling, brief song : so rapidly and oft 
was it repeated that it was almost one long, con- 
tinuous song. But as the wind snatched away 
the notes again and again, or the bird changed 
his perch, or another answered him or took his 
place, the music was roving like a hunter's. ... I 
looked at my maps. Should I go through Swin- 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 27 

don, or Andover, or Winchester, or Southampton? 
I had a mind to compass all four ; but the objec- 
tion was that the kinks thus to be made would 
destroy any feeling of advance in the journey. . . . 

The night was wild, and on the morrow the earth 
lay sleeping a sweet, quiet sleep of recovery from 
the wind's rage. The robin could be heard as 
often as the missel-thrush. The sleep lasted 
through a morning of frost and haze into a clear 
day, gentle but bright, and another and another of 
cloudy brightness, brightened cloudiness, rounded 
off between half-past five and half-past six by 
blackbirds singing. The nights were strange chil- 
dren for such days, nights of frantic wind and rain, 
threatening to undo all the sweet work in .a swift, 
howling revolution. Trees were thrown down, 
branches broken, but the buds remained. 

The north wind made an invasion with horizontal 
arrows of pricking hail in the day, and twice in the 
night a blue lightning, that long stood brandished 
within the room until thunder fell, disembowelling 
the universe, with no rolling sound, but a single 
plunge and rebound as of an enormous weight. 
With the day came snow, hail, and rain, each im- 
potent to silence the larks for one minute after it 
had ceased. The half-moon at the zenith of a serene, 
frosty night led in a morning of mist that filled up 



28 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

all the hollows of the valley as with snow : each 
current of smoke from locomotive or cottage lay in 
solid and enduring vertebrae above the mist : the 
sun shone upon black rooks cawing moodily, upon 
snow and freshest green intermingled : the larks 
soared into the light white cloud; the bullfinch 
whispered a sweet, cracked melody, almost hid now 
in hawthorn leaves. 

These things in their turn availed nothing 
against a wind swooping violently all night, some- 
times with rain, sometimes without. Neither west 
wind nor rain respected daybreak : only at half- 
past one could the sun put his head out to see if 
the two had done quarrelling with the earth or 
with one another. The rain gave up, and the loose 
clouds strewn over the sky had no more order than 
the linen which was now hurriedly spread on the 
blossoming gorse-bushes to flatter the sun. In 
response, the sun poured out light on flooded 
waters, on purple brook-side thickets of alder, and 
celandines under them, and on solitary greening 
chestnuts, as if all was now to be well. The clouds 
massed themselves together in larger and whiter 
continents, the blue spaces widened. Yet though 
the sun went down in peace, what of the morrow ? 

Whatever happened, I was to start on Good 
Friday. I was now deciding that I would go 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 29 

through Salisbury, and over the Plain to West 
Lavington, and thence either through Devizes or 
through Trowbridge and Bradford. Salisbury was 
to be reached by Guildford, Farnham, Alton, Aires- 
ford, but perhaps not Winchester for I could 
follow down the Itchen to King's Worthy, and 
then cross those twenty miles of railwayless country 
by way of Stockbridge, visiting thus Hazlitt's 
Winterslow. To Guildford there were several 
possible ways. The ordinary Portsmouth road, 
smooth enough for roller-skating, and passing 
through unenclosed piny and ferny commons one 
after another, did not overmuch attract me. Also, 
I wanted to see Ewell again, and Epsom, and 
Leatherhead, and to turn round between hill and 
water under Leatherhead Church and Mickleham 
Church to Dorking. Thus my ways out of London 
were reduced. I could, of course, reach Ewell by 
way of Kingston, Surbiton, and Tolworth, travers- 
ing some of Jefferies' second country, and crossing 
the home of his " London trout." But this was 
too much of a digression for the first day. 

At any rate the Quantocks were to be my goal. 
I had a wish of a mildly imperative nature that 
Spring would be arriving among the Quantocks at 
the same time as myself that " the one red leaf the 
last of its clan," that danced on March 7, 1798, 



30 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

would have danced itself into the grave : that since 
my journey was to be in " a month before the 
month of May," Spring would come fast, not slowly, 
up that way. Yes, I would see Nether Stowey, the 
native soil of " Kubla Khan," " Christabel," and 
" The Ancient Mariner," where Coleridge fed on 
honey- dew and drank the milk of Paradise. 

If I was to get beyond the Quantocks, it would 
only be for the sake of looking at Taunton or 
Minehead or Exmoor. Those hills were a distinct 
and sufficient goal, because they form the boundary 
between the south-west and the west. Beyond 
them lie Exmoor, Dartmoor, the Bodmin Moor, 
and Land's End, a rocky and wilder land, though 
with many a delicate or bounteous interspace. 
On this side is the main tract of the south and 
the south-west, and the Quantocks themselves are 
the last great strongholds of that sweetness. Thither 
I planned to go, under the North Downs to Guild- 
ford, along the Hog's Back to Farnham, down the 
Itchen towards Winchester, over the high lands of 
the Test to Salisbury ; across the Plain to Bradford, 
over the Mendips to Shepton Mallet, and then 
under the Mendips to Wells and Glastonbury, along 
the ridge of the Polden Hills to Bridgwater, and 
so up to the Quantocks and down to the sea. 

I was to start on roads leading into the Epsom 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 31 

road. Some regret I felt that I could not contrive 
to leave by the Brighton road. For I should thus 
again have enjoyed passing the green dome of 
Streatham Common, the rookery at Norbury, the 
goose-pond by the " Wheatsheaf " and " Horse- 
shoe," and threading the unbroken lines of Croydon 
shops until Haling Park begins on the right hand, 
opposite the "Red Deer." The long, low, green 
slope of the Park, the rookery elms on it, the chest- 
nuts above the roadside fence, are among the pleas- 
antest things which the besieging streets have made 
pleasanter. Haling Down, a straight-ridged and 
treeless long hill parallel to the road, is a continuation 
of that slope. In the midst it is broken by a huge 
chalk-pit, bushy and weathered, and its whole length 
is carved by an old road, always clearly marked 
either by the bare chalk of its banks or the stout 
thorn-bushes attending its course. Blocks of shops 
between the grass and the road, a street or two 
running up into it, as at the chalk-pit, and the an- 
nouncement of building sites, have not spoiled this 
little Down, which London has virtually impris- 
oned. Anywhere in the chalk country its distinct 
individuality, the long, straight ridge and even 
flank, would gain it honour, but here it is a pure 
pastoral. It is good enough to create a poem at 
least equal (in everything but length) to " Windsor 



32 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Forest " or " Cooper's Hill," if we had a local poet 
to-day. Beyond it, enclosed by the Eastbourne 
and Brighton roads, is a perfect small region of low 
downs, some bare, some wooded, some bushy, hav- 
ing Coulsdon in the centre. . . . But that was not 
to be my way. 

Next day new dust was blowing over still wet 
mud, but the stainless blue of eight o'clock was 
veiled at nine. A thin gleam now and then illumi- 
nated the oaks, the fagots piled among primroses, 
and the copser himself. Half leaning against an 
oak, half reclining on his bed between two hurdles, 
he smoked and saw steadily and whole the train 
that rushed past the wood's edge, the immense white 
cloud that pushed up slowly above the horizon, 
and the man following the roller down stripe after 
stripe of the next meadow, his head bent, his hand 
in his pocket. What sun there was, and perhaps 
more, had entered the rook's cawing and the pas- 
sages from " Madame Angot " tripping out of the 
barrel-organ. One isolated bent larch in a dark 
wood was green all over, a spirit of acrid green 
challenging the darkness. An angry little shower 
made my hope sputter, but the gleam while the 
rain, white with light, was still falling the soft 
bright gleam with which the worn flagstones 
answered the returning sun seemed to me pure 



IN SEARCH OF SPRING. 33 

Spring. If the rain fell again soon afterwards it 
only enriched the deep, after-rainy blue of even- 
ing, and made whiter the one planet that shone at 
half-past six upon the mud, the straight lines of 
traffic, and the parallels of white and yellow lamps. 
As deeply as one pearl dropped in mid-Atlantic 
was that planet lost in the storms of the night, 
when the rain and the south-west wind raved 
together. Yet I had planned to start on the next 
day. 



n. 

THE START : LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 

T HAD planned to start on March 21, and 
* rather late than early, to give the road 
time for drying. The light arrived bravely and 
innocently enough at sunrise; too bravely, for by 
eight o'clock it was already abashed by a shower. 
There could be no doubt that either I must wait 
for a better day, or at the next convenient fine 
interval I must pretend to be deceived and set 
out prepared for all things. So at ten I started, 
with maps and sufficient clothes to replace what 
my waterproof could not protect from rain. 

The suburban by- streets already looked ride- 
able ; but they were false prophets : the main 
roads were very different. For example, the sur- 
face between the west end of Nightingale Lane 
and the top of Burntwood Lane was fit only for 
fancy cycling in and out among a thousand lakes 
a yard wide and three inches deep. These should 
either have been stocked with gold-fish and aquatic 
plants or drained, but some time had been allowed 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 35 

to pass without either course being adopted. It 
may be that all the draining forces of the neigh- 
bourhood had been directed to emptying the orna- 
mental pond on Wandsworth Common. Empty 
it was, and the sodden bed did not improve the 
look of the common flat by nature, flatter by 
recent art. The gorse was in bloom amidst a 
patchwork of turf, gravel, and puddle. Terriers 
raced about or trifled. A flock of starlings bathed 
together in a puddle until scared by the dogs. A 
tall, stern, bald man without a hat strode earnestly 
in a straight hue across the grass and water, as 
if pleasure had become a duty. He was alone on 
the common. In all the other residences, that form 
walls round the common almost on every side, 
hot-cross buns had proved more alluring than the 
rain and the south-west wind. The scene was, in 
fact, one more likely to be pleasing in a picture 
than in itself. It was tame : it was at once arti- 
ficial and artless, and touched with beauty only by 
the strong wind and by the subdued brightness 
due to the rain. Its breadth and variety were 
sufficient for it to respond something as Exmoor or 
Household Heath or Cefn Bryn in Gower wo'uld 
have responded to the cloudily shattered light, 
the threats and the deceptions, and the great 
sweep of the wind. But there was no one paint- 



36 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

ing those cold expanses of not quite lusty grass, 
the hard, dull gravel, the shining puddles, the 
dark gold-flecked gorse, the stiff, scanty trees with 
black bark and sharp green buds, the comparatively 
venerable elms of Bolingbroke Grove, the backs 
and fronts of houses of no value save to their 
owners, and the tall chimney-stacks northwards. 
Perhaps only a solitary artist, or some coldish sort 
of gnome or angel, could have thoroughly enjoyed 
this moment. That it was waiting for such a 
one I am certain ; I am almost equally certain 
that he could create a vogue in scenes like this one, 
which are only about a thousandth part as un- 
pleasant as a cold bath, and possess, furthermore, 
elements of divinity lacking both to the cold bath 
and to the ensuing bun. 

It is easier to like the blackbird's shrubbery, the 
lawn, the big elm, or oak, and the few dozen fruit 
trees, of the one or two larger and older houses 
surviving for example, at the top of Burntwood 
Lane. The almond, the mulberry, the apple 
trees in these gardens have a menaced or actually 
caged loveliness, as of a creature detained from 
some world far from ours, if they are not, as hi some 
cases they are, the lost angels of ruined paradises. 

Burntwood Lane, leading down from a residen- 
tial district to an industrial district, is no longer 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 37 

as pretty as its name. Also, when it seems to be 
aiming at the country, it turns into a street of 
maisonettes, with a vista of houses terminated by 
the two tall red chimneys of the Wimbledon Elec- 
tricity Works. But it has its character. The 
Lunatic Asylum helps it with broad, cultivated 
squares, elms, and rooks' nests, and the voices 
of cows and pigs behind the railings that line it 
on the left hand from top to bottom. On the 
right, playfields waiting to be built all over give it 
a lesser advantage. How sorry are the unprotected 
elms on that side ! They will never be old. Man, 
child, and dog, walking in and out of them, climbing 
them, kicking and cutting them, have made them 
as little like trees as it is possible for them to be 
while they yet live. They have one hour of pretti- 
ness, when the leaf-buds are as big as peas on the 
little side sprays low down. Then on a Saturday 
or on a Sunday, when the path is darkened by 
adults in their best clothes the children come and 
pick the sprays in bunches instead of primroses. 
For there are no primroses, no celandines, no 
dandelions outside the fences in Burntwood Lane. 
And Garratt Green at the bottom is now but a 
railed-in, perfectly level square for games, with 
rules on a notice-board. It is greener than when 
it was crossed diagonally by paths, and honoured 



38 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

on a Saturday by gypsies and coconut-shies. 
Probably it now gives some satisfaction to the 
greatest number possible, but nobody will ever 
again, until After London, think of Garratt Green 
as a sort of country place. I went round it and 
its footballers in haste. Nor is that thickening 
portion of London beyond it easily made to ap- 
pear beautiful or interesting. It is flat and low, 
suitable rather for vegetables than men, and built 
on chiefly because people can always be enticed into 
new houses. The flatter and lower and more suit- 
able for vegetables, the more easily satisfied are the 
people with their houses, partly because they are 
poor, partly because they are half country folk and 
like this kind of land, it may be, and the river 
Wandel, the watercress beds, the swampy places, 
the market gardens, the cabbages and lavender, 
and Mitcham Fair, more than they would like the 
church-parade along Bolingbroke Grove, the bands, 
the teetotallers, the atheists, and the tennis-players, 
on the commons which have a gravel soil. 

As I left the Green I noticed Huntspill Road. 
Why is it Huntspill Road ? I thought at once of 
Huntspill in Somerset, of Highbridge on the Brue, 
of Brent Knoll, of Burnham and Hunt's Pond, 
and the sandhills and the clouded-yellow butter- 
flies that shared the hollows of the sandhills with 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 39 

me in the Summer once. Such is the way of street 
names, particularly in London suburbs, where 
free play is given to memory and fancy. I sup- 
pose, if I were to look, I should find names as 
homely as the Florrie Place and Lily Place at lower 
Farringdon near Alton, or the Susannah's Cottage 
and Katie's Cottage near Canute's Palace at South- 
ampton. But Beatrice, Ayacanora, or Megalos- 
trate would be as likely. To the casual, curious 
man, these street names compose an outdoor 
museum as rich as any in the world. They are 
the elements of a puzzle map of England which 
gradually we fill in, now recognizing from a bus- 
top the name of a Wiltshire village, and again 
among the Downs coming upon a place which had 
formerly been but a name near Clapham Junction. 
Not far beyond Huntspill Road, at what is called 
(I think) New Wimbledon, I noticed a De Burgh 
Street. Do you remember how Borrow, speaking 
of the tricks of fortune, says that he has seen a 
descendant of the De Burghs who wore the falcon 
mending kettles in a dingle ? He counted him- 
self one of the De Burghs. De Burgh Street is 
a double row of more than dingy better than 
dingy swarthy, mulatto cottages, ending in a 
barrier of elm trees. The monotony of the tiny 
front gardens is broken by a dark pine tree in one, 



40 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and by an inn called the " Sultan " not " Sweet 
Sultan," which is a flower, but " Sultan," a dusky 
king. And out of the " Sultan," towards me, 
strode a gaunt, dusky man, with long black ring- 
lets dangling from under his hard hat down over 
his green and scarlet neckerchief. His tight 
trousers, his brisk gait, and his hairless jib, were 
those of a man used to horses and to buyers and 
sellers of horses. He came rapidly and to beg. 
Rapid was his begging, exquisitely finished in its 
mechanical servility. His people were somewhere 
not far off, said he. That night he had travelled 
from St. Albans to rejoin them. They were not 
here : they must be at Wandsworth, with the 
vans and horses. All questions were answered 
instantly, briefly, and impersonally. The inci- 
dent was but a pause in his rapid career from the 
" Sultan " to Wandsworth. He took the price 
of a pint with a slight appearance of gratitude, 
and departed with long, very quick steps, head 
down, face almost hidden by his bowler. 

But there was much to be seen between Hunt- 
spill Road and De Burgh Road. The scene, for 
instance, from the corner by the " Plough," the 
" Prince Albert," and the " White Lion," at Sum- 
merstown, was curious and typical. These three 
great houses stand at the edge of the still culti- 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 41 

vated and unpopulated portion of the flat land 
of the Wandel the allotment gardens, the water- 
cress beds, the meadows plentifully adorned with 
advertisements and thinly sprinkled with horse 
and cow, but not lacking a rustic house and a 
shed or two, and to-day a show of plum-blossom. 
This suburban landscape had not the grace of 
Haling Park and Down, but at that moment its 
best hour was beginning. The main part visible 
was twenty acres of damp meadow. On the left 
it was bounded by the irregular low buildings of a 
laundry, a file and tool factory, and a chamois- 
leather mill ; on the right by the dirty backs of 
Summerstown. On the far side a neat, white, 
oldish house was retiring amid blossoming fruit 
trees under the guardianship of several elms, and 
the shadow of those two tall red chimneys of the 
Electricity Works. On my side the meadow had 
a low black fence between it and the road, with 
the addition, in one place, of high advertisement 
boards, behind which lurked three gypsy vans. 
A mixture of the sordid and the delicate in the 
whole was unmistakable. 

Skirting the meadow, my road led up to the 
Wandel and a mean bridge. The river here is 
broadened for a hundred yards between the bridge 
and the chamois-leather mill or Copper Mill. The 



42 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

buildings extend across and along one side of the 
water ; a meadow comes to the sedgy side oppo- 
site. The mill looks old, has tarred boards where 
it might have had corrugated iron, and its neigh- 
bours are elms and the two chimneys. It is 
approached at one side by a lane called Copper Mill 
Lane, where the mud is of a sort clearly denoting 
a town edge or a coal district. Above the bridge 
the back-yards of new houses have only a narrow 
waste between them and the Wandel, and on this 
was being set up the coconut-shy that would have 
been on Garratt Green twenty years ago. 

The rain returned as I was crossing the railway 
bridge by Haydon's Road station. It was raining 
hard when the gypsy left the " Sultan," and still 
harder when I turned to the right along Merton 
Road. Rather than be soaked thus early, I took 
the shelter offered by a bird-shop on the left hand. 
This was not a cheerful or a pretty place. Over- 
head hung a row of cages containing chaffinches 
battered ones at a shilling, a neater one at eighteen- 
pence that sang every now and then, 

" My life and soul, as if he were a Greek." 

Inside the shop, linnets at half a crown were rush- 
ing ceaselessly against the bars of six-inch cages, 
their bosoms ruffled and bloody as if from the 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 43 

strife, themselves like wild hearts beating in breasts 
too narrow. " House-moulted " goldfinches (price 
5s. 6d.) were making sounds which I should have 
recognized as the twittering of goldfinches had I 
heard them among thistles on the Down tops. 
Little, bright foreign birds, that would have been 
hardly more at home there than here, looked more 
contented. A gold-fish, six inches long, squirmed 
about a globe with a diameter of six inches, in the 
most complete exile imaginable. The birds at 
least breathed air not parted entirely from the 
south-west wind which was now soaking the street ; 
but the fish was in a living grave. The place was 
perhaps more cheerless to look at than to live in, 
but in a short time three more persons took shelter 
by it, and after glancing at the birds, stood look- 
ing out at the rain, at the dull street, the tobacco- 
nist's, news-agent's, and confectioner's shops alone 
being unshuttered. Presently one of the three 
shelterers entered the bird- shop, which I had 
supposed shut ; the proprietor came out for a 
chaffinch ; and in a minute or two the customer 
left with an uncomfortable air and something 
fluttering in a paper bag such as would hold a 
penn'orth of sweets. He mounted a bicycle, and I 
after him, for the rain had forgotten to fall. He 
turned up to the left towards Morden station, 



44 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

which was my way also. Not far up the road he 
was apparently unable to bear the fluttering in the 
paper bag any longer ; he got down, and with an 
awkward air, as if he knew how many great men had 
done it before, released the flutterer. A dingy cock 
chaffinch flew off among the lilacs of a garden, say- 
ing " Chink." The deliverer was up and away again. 

For some distance yet the land was level. The 
only hill was made by the necessity of crossing a 
railway at Morden station. At that point rows of 
houses were discontinued ; shops and public- 
houses with a lot of plate-glass had already ceased. 
The open stretches were wider and wider, of dark 
earth, of vegetables in squares, or florists' planta- 
tions, divided by hedges low and few, or by lines 
of tall elm trees or Lombardy poplars. Not quite 
rustic men and women stooped or moved to and 
fro among the vegetables : carts were waiting 
under the elms. A new house, a gasometer, an 
old house and its trees, lay on the farther side of 
the big field : behind them the Crystal Palace. 
On my right, in the opposite direction, the trees 
massed themselves together into one wood. 

It is so easy to make this flat land sordid. The 
roads, hedges, and fences on it have hardly a 
reason for being anything but straight. More and 
more the kind of estate disappears that might 






LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 45 

preserve trees and various wasteful and pretty 
things : it is replaced by small villas and market 
gardens. If any waste be left under the new 
order, it will be used for conspicuously depositing 
rubbish. Little or no wildness of form or ar- 
rangement can survive, and with no wildness a 
landscape cannot be beautiful. Barbed wire and 
ugly and cruel fences, used against the large and 
irresponsible population of townsmen, add to the 
charmless artificiality. It was a relief to see a boy 
stealing up one of the hedges, looking for birds' 
nests. And then close up against this eager agri- 
culture and its barbed wires are the hotels, inns, 
tea-shops, and cottages with ginger-beer for the 
townsman who is looking for country of a more 
easy-going nature. This was inhospitable. On 
many a fence and gate had been newly written up 
in chalk by some prophet : " Eternity," " Believe," 
" Come unto Me." 

I welcomed the fences for the sake of what lay 
behind them. Now it was a shrubbery, now a 
copse, and perhaps a rookery, or a field running 
up mysteriously to the curved edge of a wood, and 
at Morden Hall it was a herd of deer among the 
trees. The hedges were good in themselves, and 
for the lush grass, the cuckoo-pint, goose-grass, 
and celandine upon their banks. Walking up all 



46 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

the slightest hills because of the south-west wind, I 
could see everything, from the celandines one by 
one and the crowding new chestnut leaves, to the 
genial red brick tower of St. Laurence's Church 
at Morden and the inns one after another the 
" George," the " Lord Nelson," the " Organ," the 
" Brick Kiln," the " Victoria." Nelson's hatchment 
is still on the wall of Merton Church: his name 
is the principal one for inns in the neighbour- 
hood. Ewell, for example, has a "Lord Nelson," 
where the signboard shows Nelson and the tele- 
scope on one side, and the Victory on the other. 

The liberator of the chaffinch and I no longer 
had the road to ourselves as we struggled on in 
the mud between old houses, villas, dingy tea- 
shops, hoardings, and fields that seemed to pro- 
duce crops of old iron and broken crockery. If 
the distant view at one moment was all elm trees, 
at the next it was a grand new instalment of Lon- 
don, ten fields away. But all of us must have 
looked mainly at the road ahead, making for some 
conjectural " world far from ours." The important 
thing was to get out of this particular evil, not to 
inquire whether worse came after. 

Only the most determined people were on the 
road. Motor cycles and side-cars bore middle- 
aged men with their wives or children, poorish- 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 47 

looking young men with their girls. Once or twice 
a man dashed by with a pretty girl smiling above 
his back wheel, perfectly balanced. But the greater 
number of my fellow-travellers were cyclists carry- 
ing luncheons and waterproofs. In one band 
seven or eight lean young chaps in dark clothes 
bent over their handle-bars, talking in jerks as 
they laboured, all stopping together at any call 
for a drink or to mend a puncture. They swore 
furiously, but (I believe) not in anger, at a nervous 
woman crossing in front of them. If conversation 
flagged, one or other of them was certain to break 
out into song with, 

" Who were you with last night 
Out in the pale moonlight ? 
It wasn't your missus, 
It wasn't your ma. 
Ah, ah, ah, ah ! ... ah ! 
Will you tell your missus 
When you get home 
Who you were with last night ? " 

The clouds hung like pudding-bags all over the 
sky, but the sad, amorous, jaunty drivel seemed 
to console them. 

Some way past Morden these braves were jeer- 
ing at the liberator of the chaffinch, who stood in 
the middle of the road with a book and pencil. 
He was drawing a weather-vane above a house 



48 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

on the left hand. The long, gilt dragon, its open 
mouth, sharp ears, sharp upright wings, and thin 
curled tail, had attracted him, although the arrow- 
head at the tip of the tail was pointing south- 
westward, and rain was falling. " It's rather curi- 
ous," he remarked, as I came up to him, " there is 
no ingenuity in weather-vanes. One has to put up 
with the Ship and the Cock erected over the Im- 
perial Hotel in Russell Square, and think oneself 
really lucky to come across the Centaur with his 
bow and arrow at the brass-foundry, you know, 
on the left just before you come to the top of 
Tottenham Court Road from Portland Road sta- 
tion." But it was blowing hard, and there was little 
reason for me to suppose that he was addressing me, 
or for him to suppose that I heard him. However, 
it was a kind of introduction. On we rode. 

I had been about two hours reaching the gate of 
Nonsuch Park, and the fountain and cross there 
commemorating a former mistress, Charlotte Far- 
mer, who died in 1906. The other man was reading 
aloud the inscription, 

" As thirsty travellers in a desert land 
Welcome a spring amidst a waste of sand, 
So did her kindly actions cheer the sad, 
Refresh the worn, and make the weary glad." 

I tried to get water, but there was none. Never- 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 49 

theless, the fountain was a pretty thing on that plot 
of grass where the road zigzags opposite the gate and 
avenue of Nonsuch. A dove and an olive branch, 
of ruddiest gilding, is perched on the cross tip. 

' Wretched weather," said the man, speaking 
through the pencil in his mouth, as he straddled 
on to his bicycle. At Ewell I lost him by going 
round behind the< new church to look at the old 
tower. This completely ivy- covered square tower 
is all that remains of an old church. If the rest 
was as little decayed, there can hardly have been 
a good reason for demolishing it. The doors were 
locked. I could only walk about among the trees, 
glancing at the tombs of the Glyn family, and the 
headstone of Edward Wells (who died in 1742, at the 
age of sixteen) and the winged skull adorning it. 

Ewell was the first place on my road which bore 
a considerable resemblance to a country town. It 
stands at the forking of a Brighton and a Worthing 
road. Hereby rises the Hogsmill river ; its water 
flows alongside the street, giving its name to the 
" Spring Inn." The name Ewell, like that of 
Oxfordshire Ewelme, seems and is said to be con- 
nected with the presence of water. The place is not 
a mere roadside collection of houses with a varie- 
gated, old look, but a town at which roads meet, 

pause, take a turn or two, and exchange greetings, 

4 



50 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

before separating from one another and from 
Ewell. The town probably struck those escaping 
Londoners on bicycles as one where the sign of 
the " Green Man " was in keeping. Comfortable 
houses on the outskirts, with high trees and 
shrubberies, and an avenue of limes crossing the 
road at right angles, confirm the fancy. It marked 
a definite stage on the road from London. 

The end of Ewell touched the beginning of 
Epsom, which had to be entered between high walls 
of advertisements yards of pictures and large 
letters asserting the virtues of clothes, food, drugs, 
etc., one sheet, for example, showing that by eating 
or drinking something you gained health, appetite, 
vigour, and a fig-leaf. The exit was better. 

Epsom had the same general effect as Ewell, but 
more definite and complete, thanks to a few hundred 
yards of street broad enough for a market which, 
for the most part, satisfied the town eye as coun- 
trified and old-fashioned. Over one of its corn- 
chandlers' a carved horse's head was stuck up. 
There was an empty inn called the " Tun," a 
restaurant named after Nell Gwynn. True, there 
is a fortnight's racing yearly, and a number of 
railway stations, in consequence ; and " Lord 
Arthur Savile's Crime " is on sale there : but, as 
in Nell Gwynn's time and Defoe's time, it is a 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 51 

place for putting off London thoughts. There is no 
king there now, no king's mistress presumably, no 
nightly ball even in July, no bowls, no strutting 
to the Wells to drink what the chemist sells at two- 
pence a pound, no line of trees down the middle of 
the broad street. Nor, accordingly, is there the 
same wintry dereliction as in those days. When 
the leaves fall in Autumn the people do not all fly, 
the houses are not all shut up, the walks do not go 
out of repair, the roads do not become full of 
sloughs. But it always was a pleasure resort. For 
more than a hundred years before railways, London 
business men used to keep their families at Epsom 
and ride daily to and from the Exchange or their 
warehouses. The very market that it had on 
Fridays had been obtained for it by a plotting 
apothecary named Livingstone. This man tried to 
diddle the world by putting up a pump, not over 
the good old cathartic spring, but over a new one 
that was not cathartic ; and the world gave up both 
old and new. To-day only the poor and simple go 
to Epsom for pleasure apart from racing. Anybody 
and everybody with feet or wheels can get there 
from London on a holiday or even a half -holiday. 

The exit from Epsom was almost free from 
advertisements. And then the common : it had 
a sea-like breadth and clearness. The one man 



52 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

among the soaked, flowering gorse-bushes and new 
green hawthorn was extremely like the liberator 
of the chaffinch and collector of weather-vanes. 
He was sketching something in the rain. The only 
others of humankind visible were on the road, 
struggling south-west or rushing towards London, 
or on the side of the road, hoping to sell ginger-beer 
and lemonade to travellers. This hedgeless gorse- 
land, first on both sides, then on the right only, 
reached to the verge of Ashtead, but with some 
change of character. The larger part was gently 
billowing gorse flower and hawthorn leaf. The 
last part was flat, wet, and rushy. The gorse came 
to an end, and here was a copse of oak. At inter- 
vals of thirty yards or so were oaks as old as Epsom, 
of a broad kind, forking close to the ground, iron- 
coloured and stained with faint green. Oaks not 
more than forty or fifty years old, tall instead of 
spreading, their lower branches broken off, grew 
between. Among these, dead fern and bramble 
with its old leaves made distinct island thickets, out 
of which stood a few thorns. And the thin grasses 
around the thickets were strewn with dead twigs 
and leaves, and some paper and broken bottles left 
there in better weather. A robin sang in one of 
the broad oaks, whether any one listened or not. 
On the opposite side of the road that is to say, 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 53 

on the left the common had given way to Ashtead 
Park. There the big iron- coloured oaks stood 
aristocratically about on gentle green slopes. To 
Ashtead Park belonged the Hon. Mary Greville 
Howard, who died in 1877, at the age of ninety- two, 
and is commemorated by a fountain on the right 
hand which gave me this information. The fountain 
is placed on a square of much-trodden bare earth 
close to the road, surmounted by a cross. Whatever 
were the good deeds which persuaded her friends 
to erect the fountain, that was a good deed. It was 
not dry, and, I have been told, never is. 

Ashtead itself is more suburban than either Ewell 
or Epsom. It appeared to be a collection of residences 
about as incapable of self-support as could anywhere 
be found a private-looking, respectable, inhospi- 
table place that made the rain colder, and doubtless, 
in turn, coloured the spectacles it was seen through. 
The name of its inn, the " Leg of Mutton and 
Cauliflower," may be venerable, but it smacked of 
suburban fancy, as if it had been bestowed to 
catch the pennies of easy-going lovers of quaintness. 

They were beginning to create a new Ashtead a 
little farther on. A placard by a larch copse at the 
edge of a high- walled marl-pit, announced that 
convenient and commanding houses were to be 
built shortly to supply the new golf links with 



54 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

golfers. A road had been driven through the 
estate. The young, green larches stood at the 
entrance like well-drilled liveried pages, ready to 
give way or die according to the requirements of 
golfers, but for the present enjoying the rain and 
looking as larch-like as possible above the curved 
gray wall of the pit. 

Not much after this, Leatherhead began, two 
broken lines of villas, trees, and shrubberies, leading 
to a steep country street and, at its foot, the Mole, 

" Four streams: whose whole delight in island lawns, 
Dark-hanging alder dusks and willows pale 
O'er shining gray-green shadowed waterways, 
Makes murmuring haste of exit from the vale 
Through fourteen arches voluble 
Where river tide- weed sways." . . . 

As I looked this time from Leatherhead Bridge, I 
recalled " Aphrodite at Leatherhead," and these, 
its opening lines, by John Helston, the town's 
second poet. It is no new thing to stop on the 
bridge and look up the river to the railway bridge, 
and down over the divided water to the level grass, 
the tossing willows, the tall poplars scattered upon 
it, the dark elms beside, and Leatherhead rising up 
from it to the flint tower of St. Mary and St. 
Nicholas, and its umbrageous churchyard and turf 
as of grass-green silk. The bridge is good in itself, 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 55 

and the better for this view and for the poem. 
The adjacent inn, the " Running Horse," and 
Elinour Rumming who brewed ale there and sold 
it to travellers 

" Tinkers and sweaters and swinkers 
And all good ale-drinkers "- 

four hundred years ago, these were the theme of 
a poet, Henry the Eighth's laureate, John Skelton. 

Having ridden down to the bridge, I walked up 
again, for I had no intention of going on over the 
Mole by the shortest road to Guildford. It is a good 
road, but a high and rather straight one through 
parks and cornland, and scarcely a village. The 
wide spaces on both hands, and the troops and 
clusters of elm trees, are best in fine weather, 
particularly in Autumn. I took the road through 
Mickleham and Dorking. Thus I wound along, 
having wooded hills, Leatherhead Downs, Mickle- 
ham Downs, Juniper Hill; and Box Hill, always 
steep above on the left, and on the right the Mole 
almost continually in sight below. 

They were still worshipping in the Church of St. 
Mary and St. Nicholas. Outside it what most 
pleased me were the cross near a young cedar 
which was erected in 1902 " to the praise and 
glory of God, and the memory of the nameless 
dead," and the epitaph : " Here sleepeth, awaiting 



56 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

the resurrection of the just, William Lewis, Esq., of 
the East India Company." The memory of a 
human being that can exist without a name is but 
the shadow of the shadow that a name casts, and 
it is hard not to wonder what effect the cross can 
have on those who await the resurrection of the 
just, or indeed, on any one but Geraldine Rickards, 
at whose expense it was placed here. 

The road, bending round under the churchyard 
and its trees, followed the steeper side of the Mole 
valley, and displayed to me the meadow, young 
corn, and ploughland, running up from the farther 
bank to beech woods. The clouds were higher and 
harder. The imprisoned pale sun, though it 
could not be seen, could be felt at the moments 
when a bend offered shelter from the wind. The 
change was too late for most of my fellow-travel- 
lers : they had stopped or turned back at Leather- 
head. I was almost alone as I came into Mickle- 
ham, except for a horseman and his dog. This man 
was a thick, stiff man in clay-coloured rough clothes 
and a hard hat ; his bandy, begaitered legs curled 
round the flanks of a piebald pony as thick and 
stiff as himself. He carried an ash-plant instead 
of a riding- whip, and in his mouth a pipe of strong, 
good tobacco. I had not seen such a country 
figure that day, though I dare say there were many 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 57 

among the nameless dead in Leatherhead church- 
yard, awaiting the resurrection of the just with 
characteristic patience. His dog also was clay- 
coloured, as shaggy and as large as a sheep, and 
exceedingly like a sheep. Probably he was a man 
who could have helped me to understand, for ex- 
ample, the epitaph of Benjamin Rogers in Mickle- 
ham churchyard, 

" Here peaceful sleep the aged and the young, 
The rich and poor, an undistinguished throng. 
Time was these ashes lived ; a time must be 
When others thus shall stand and look at thee." 

I had at first written, 

" Time was these ashes lov'd." 

His wife, Mary, who died at fifty-five in 1755, is 
hard by under an arch of ancient ivy against the 
wall. She speaks from the tomb, 

" How lov'd, how valu'd once avails thee not : 
To whom related, or by whom begot. 
A heap of dust alone remains of thee. 
'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be." 

That this desperate Christian, Mary Rogers, had 
any special knowledge of these matters, I have no 
reason for believing. I even doubt if she really 
thought that love was of as little importance as 
having a lord in the family. The lines were com- 
posed in a drab ecstasy of conventional humility, 




58 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

lacking genuine satisfaction in the thought that 
she and the more beautiful and the better-dressed 
were become equals. But I did not ask the clay- 
coloured man's opinion. I rode behind him into 
Mickleham, and there lost him between the " Run- 
ning Horse " (or, at least, an inn with two racing 
horses for a sign) and the " William the Fourth." 
The loyalty of Mickleham, in thus preserving the 
memory of a sort of a king for three-quarters of a 
century, is sublime. Mickleham is, apart from its 
gentlemen's residences, an old-fashioned place, ac- 
commodating itself in a picturesque manner to the 
hillside against which it has to cling, in order to 
avoid rolling into the Mole. The root-suckers and 
the trunk shoots of the elm trees were in tiny leaf 
beside the road, the horse-chestnuts were in large 
but still rumpled leaf. The celandines on the 
steep banks found something like sunbeams to 
shine in. On the smooth slopes the grass was 
perfect, alternating with pale young corn, and with 
arable squares where the dung was waiting for a 
fine day before being spread. The small flints of 
the ploughland were as fresh and as bright as 
flowers. 

When I got to Burford Bridge, the only man at 
the entrance of the Box Hill footpath was a man 
selling fruit and drink and storing bicycles, or 



LONDON TO GUIIDFORD. 59 

hoping to begin doing these things. One motor 
car stood at the hotel door. The hill was bare, 
except of trees. But it would take centuries to 
wipe away the scars of the footpaths up it. 
For it has a history of two hundred years as a 
pleasure resort. Ladies and gentlemen used to go 
on a Sunday from Epsom to take the air and walk 
in the woods. The landlord of the " King's Arms " 
at Dorking furnished a vault under a great beech 
on top, with chairs, tables, food, and drink. It was 
like a fair, what with the gentry and the country 
people crowding to see and to imitate. But the 
young men of Dorking were very virtuous in those 
days, or were anxious that others should be so. 
They paid the vault a visit on a Saturday and blew 
it up with gunpowder to put a stop to the Sabbath 
merriment. They, at least, did not believe that in 
the dust they would be merely the equals of the 
frivolous and fresh- air-loving rich. 

Dorking nowadays has no objection to the 
popularity of Box Hill and similar resorts. It is 
a country town not wholly dependent on London, 
but its shops and inns are largely for the benefit of 
travellers of all degrees, and a large proportion of 
its inhabitants were not born in Dorking and will 
not die there. A number of visitors were already 
streaming back under umbrellas to the railway 



60 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

stations, for again it rained. The skylarks sang in 
the rain, but as man was predominant hereabouts, 
the general impression was cheerless. To many 
it must have seemed absurd that the Government 
say, Mr. Lloyd George or the County Council, or 
the Lord Mayor of Dorking, could not arrange for 
Good Friday to be a fine day. The handfuls of 
worshippers may have been more content, but they 
did not look so. Three-quarters of the windows in 
the long, decent high street were shuttered or 
blinded. Unless it was some one entering the 
" Surrey Yeoman " or " White Horse," nobody did 
anything but walk as rapidly and as straight as 
possible along the broad flagged pavement. 

Only a robust and happy man, or one in love, can 
be indifferent to this kind of March weather. Only 
a lover or a poet can enjoy it. The poet naturally 
thought of here and on such a day was Meredith of 
Box Hill. This man, 

" Quivering in harmony with the tempest, fierce 
And eager with tempestuous delight," 

was one of the manliest and deepest of earth's 
lovers who have written books. From first to last 
he wrote as an inhabitant of this earth, where, as 
Wordsworth says, " we have our happiness or not 
at all," just or unjust. Meredith's love of earth was 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 61 

in its kind equal to Wordsworth's. It was a more 
earthly kind, at the same time that it had a quality 
almost as swiftly winged as Shelley's. His earliest 
poems were all saturated with English sun and wind. 
He prayed that " this joy of woods and fields " 
would never cease ; and towards the end of his life 
he wrote one of the happiest of all the poems of age, 
the one which is quoted on the fly-leaf of Mr. 
Hudson's " Adventures among Birds : " 

" Once I was part of the music I heard 

On the boughs, or sweet between earth and sky, 
For joy of the beating of wings on high 
My heart shot into the breast of a bird. 

" I hear it now and I see it fly, 

And a life in wrinkles again is stirred, 
My heart shoots into the breast of a bird, 
As it will for sheer love till the last long sigh." 

What his " Juggling Jerry " said briefly 

" Yonder came smells of the gorse, so nutty, 

Gold-like, and warm : it's the prime of May. 
Better than mortar, brick, and putty 
Is God's house on a blowing day " 

he himself said at greater length, with variations and 
footnotes. 

Love of earth meant to him more than is com- 
monly meant by love of Nature. Men gained 
substance and stability by it ; they became strong 



62 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

" Because their love of earth is deep, 
And they are warriors in accord 
With life to serve." . . . 

In his two sonnets called " The Spirit of Shake- 
speare " he said, 

" Thy greatest knew thee, Mother Earth ; unsoured 
He knew thy sons. He probed from hell to hell 
Of human passions, but of love deflowered 
His wisdom was not, for he knew thee well. 
Thence came the honeyed corner at his lips." . 

Love of earth meant breadth, perspective, and 
proportion, and therefore humour, 

" Thunders of laughter, clearing air and heart." 

His Melampus, servant of Apollo, had a medicine, 
a " juice of the woods," which reclaimed men, 

" That frenzied in some delirious rage 
Outran the measure." . . . 

So, in " The Appeasement of Demeter," it was on 
being made to laugh that the goddess relented from 
her devastating sorrow, and the earth could revive 
and flourish again. The poet's kinship with earth 
taught him to look at lesser passing things with 
a smile, yet without disdain ; and he saw the 
stars as no " distant aliens " or " senseless powers," 
but as having in them the same fire as we ourselves, 
and could, nevertheless, turn from them to sing 
" A Stave of Roving Tim : " 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 63 

" The wind is east, the wind is west, 

Blows in and out of haven ; 
The wind that blows is the wind that's best, 

And croak, my jolly raven. 
If here awhile we jigged and laughed, 

The like we will do yonder ; 
For he's the man who masters a craft, 

And light as a lord can wander. 

" So foot the measure, Roving Tim, 

And croak, my jolly raven. 
The wind, according to his whim, 
Is in and out of haven." 

The " bile and buskin " attitude of Byron upon 
the Alps caused him to condemn " Manfred," 
pronouncing, as one having authority, 

" The cities, not the mountains, blow 
Such bladders ; in their shape's confessed 
An after-dinner's indigest." 

For his earth was definitely opposed to the " city." 
He cried to the singing thrush in February, 

" I hear, I would the City heard. 

" The City of the smoky fray ; 
A prodded ox, it drags and moans ; 
Its morrow no man's child ; its day 
A vulture's morsel beaked to bones." . . . 

He tried to persuade the city that earth was not 
" a mother whom no cry can melt." But his song 
was not clear enough, and when it was understood 



64 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 



it said chiefly that man should love battle and 
seek it, and so make himself, even if a clerk or a 
philosopher, an animal worthy of the great globe, 
careless of death : 

" For love we Earth, then serve we all : 
Her mystic secret then is ours : 
We fall, or view our treasures fall, 
Unclouded, as beholds her flowers 

" Earth, from a night of frosty wreck, 
Enrobed in morning's mounted fire. 
When lowly, with a broken neck, 
The crocus lays her cheek to mire." 

He advanced farther, fanatically far, when he said 
of the lark's song, 

" Was never voice of ours could say 
Our inmost in the sweetest way, 
Like yonder voice aloft, and link 
All hearers in the song they drink. 
Our wisdom speaks from failing blood, 
Our passion is too full in flood, 
We want the key of his wild note 
Of truthful in a tuneful throat, 
The song seraphically free 
Of taint of personality." . . . 

An impossibly noble savage might seem to have 
been his desire, a combination of Shakespeare and 
a Huron, of a " wild god-ridden courser " and a 
study chair, though in practice perhaps a George 
Borrow delighted him less than a Leslie Stephen. 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 65 

But what he thought matters little compared with 
what he succeeded in saying, and with that sen- 
suousness and vigour, both bodily and intellectual, 
which at his best he mingled as few poets have done. 
His " Love in the Valley " is the most English of 
love poems : the girl and the valley are purely and 
beautifully English. His early poem, " Daphne," 
though treating a Greek myth, is equally English 
altogether an open-air piece. No pale remembered 
orb, but the sun itself, and the wind, sweeten and 
brace the voluptuousness of both poems. And 
therefore it is that in passing Box Hill, whether 
the leaves of " the sudden-lighted whitebeam " are 
flashing, or lying, as now they were, but dimly 
hoary in the paths, I think of Meredith as I should 
not think of other poets in their territories. He 
was not so much an admirer and lover of Nature, 
like other poets, as a part of her, one of her most 
splendid creatures, fit to be ranked with the white- 
beam, the lark, and the south-west wind that 

" Comes upon the neck of night, 
Like one that leapt a fiery steed 
Whose keen, black haunches quivering shine 
With eagerness and haste." . . . 

Riding against the south-west wind is quite an- 
other thing. That fiery steed which I had been 
dragging with me, as it were, instead of riding it, 



66 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

was not in the least exhausted, and I knew that 
I was unlikely to reach Farnham that evening. 
The telegraph wires wailed their inhuman lamen- 
tation. Thunder issued a threat of some sort 
far off. 

At three, after eating, I was on the road again, 
making for Guildford by way of Wotton, Shere, 
and Shalford. If Dorking people will not have 
wine and women on top of Box Hill on a Sunday, 
they were, at any rate, strolling on the paths of 
their roadside common. The road was level, im- 
possible to cycle on against the wind. But the 
eye was not starved ; there was no haste. I now 
had the clear line of the Downs on my right hand, 
and was to have them so to Shalford. At first, in 
the region of Denbies, they were thoroughly tamed, 
their smoothness made park-like, their trees mostly 
fir. Beyond, their sides, of an almost uniform 
gentle steepness, but advancing and receding, 
hollowed and cleft, were adorned by unceasingly 
various combinations of beech wood, of scattered 
yew and thorn, of bare ploughland or young corn, 
and of naked chalk. The rolling commons at their 
feet, Milton Heath and Westcott Heath, were 
traversed by my road. Milton Heath, except for 
some rugged, heathery, pine- crested mounds on the 
right, was rather unnoticeable in comparison with 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 



67 



Buryhill, a roof -like hill at right angles to the road 
on my left. This hill has a not very high but 
distinct, even ridge, and steep slopes of grass. Its 
trees are chiefly upon the top, embowering a classic, 
open summer-house. 

After Milton Street came Westcott Heath and a 
low shingled spire up amid the gorse. The road was 
now cutting through sand, and the sand walls were 
half overgrown with moss and gorse, ivy and celan- 
dine, and overhung by wild cherry and beech. Be- 
hind me, as I climbed, a moment's sunlight brought 
out the white scar of Box Hill. 

Between the rising road and the Downs lay a 
hollow land, for nearly two miles occupied in its 
lowest part by the oaks of a narrow wood, called 
Deerleap Wood, running parallel to the road : 
sometimes the gray trunks were washed faintly 
with light, the accumulated branch-work proved 
itself purplish, and here and there the snick of a 
lost bough was bright. Over the summit of the 
wood I could see the chalky ploughland or pasture 
of the Downs, and their beechen ridge. The hol- 
low land has a kind of island, steep and natu- 
rally moated, within it, and close to the road. 
Here stands Wotton Church, the home of dead 
Evelyns of Wotton, alone among tall beeches and 
chestnuts. 



68 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

I had left behind me most cyclists from London, 
but I was now continually amongst walkers. 
There were a few genial muscular Christians with 
their daughters, and equally genial muscular agnos- 
tics with no children ; bands of scientifically - 
minded ramblers with knickerbockers, spectacles, 
and cameras ; a trio of young chaps singing their 
way to a pub. ; one or two solitaries going at five 
miles an hour with or without hats ; several of a 
more sentimental school in pairs, generally chosen 
from both sexes, disputing as to the comparative 
merits of Mr. Belloc and Mr. Arthur Sidgwick ; 
and a few country people walking, not for pleasure, 
but to see friends seven or eight miles away, whom 
perhaps they had not visited for years, and, after 
such a Good Friday as this, never will again. 

These travellers gave me a feeling that I had 
been forestalled (to put it mildly), and as the 
light began to dwindle, and to lose all intention of 
being brilliant, I allowed Guildford to hover be- 
fore my mind's eye, particularly when I saw St. 
Martha's Church, a small, clear hilltop block six 
miles away, and I knew that Guildford was not 
two miles from it, by the Pilgrim's Way or not. 
It was a satisfaction, though a trifling one, to be 
going with the water which was making for the 
Wey at Shalford. The streamlet, the Tillingbourne, 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 69 

began to assert itself at Abinger Hammer. Just 
before that village it runs alongside the road in- 
stead of a hedge, nourishing willows and supply- 
ing the bronzed watercress beds. The beginning 
of the village is a wheelwright's shed under an 
elm by the road. Many hoops of wheels lean 
against the shed, many planks against the elm. 
The green follows, and Abinger Hammer is built 
round it. I preferred Gomshall which only showed 
to the main road its inns and brewery and the 
wet, bushy Gomshall Common. It is a resort of 
gypsies. A van full of newly-made baskets stood 
among the bushes, and the men sat on the shafts 
instead of joining the ramblers at the " Black 
Horse " or the " Compasses." The downs opposite 
them were speckled black with yew. 

I did not stop at Shere, " the prettiest village in 
Surrey," and I saw no reason why it should not 
bear the title, or why it should be any the better 
liked for it. But I went to see the Silent Pool. 
Until it has been seen, everything is in the name. 
I had supposed it circular, tenebrous, and deep 
enough to be the receptacle of innumerable roman- 
tic skeletons. It is, in fact, an oblong pond of 
the size of a swimming bath, overhung on its 
two long sides and its far, short side, by ash trees. 
Its unrippled lymph, on an irregular chalk bottom 



70 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

of a singular pallid green, was so clear and thin 
that it seemed not to be water. It concealed 
nothing. A few trout glided here and there over 
the chalk or the dark green weed tufts. It had no 
need of romantic truth or fiction. Its innocent 
lucidity fascinated me. 

Now another short cut to Guildford offered itself, 
by the road an open and yellow road up over 
Merrow Down. But the Downs were beginning to 
give me some shelter, and I went on under them, 
glad of the easier riding. The Tillingbourne here 
was running closer under the Downs, and the river 
level met the hillside more sharply than before. 
The road bent above the meadows and showed them 
flat to the very foot of a steep, brown slope covered 
with beeches. The sky lightened lightened too 
much : St. Martha's tower, almost reaching up into 
the hurrying white rack, was dark on its dark hill. 
So I came to Albury, which has the streamlet be- 
tween it and the Downs, unlike Abinger Hammer, 
Gomshall, and Shere. The ground, used for vege- 
tables and plum trees, fell steeply down to the 
water, beyond which it rose again as steeply in a 
narrow field bounded horizontally by a yet steeper 
strip of hazel coppice ; beyond this again the rise 
was continued in a broader field extending to the 
edge of the main hillside beech wood. Albury is 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 71 

one of those villages possessing a neglected old 
church and a brand-new one. In this case the 
new is a decent enough one of alternating flint 
and stone, built among trees on a gradual rise. 
But the old one is too much like a shameless un- 
buried corpse. 

Twice I crossed the TilHngbourne, and came to 
where it broadened into a pond. This water on 
either side of the road was bordered by plumed 
sedges and clubbed bulrushes. At the far side, 
under the wooded Downside crowned by St. Martha's, 
was a pale, shelterless mill of a ghostly bareness. 
The aspens were breaking into yellow-green leaves 
round about, especially one prone aspen on the left 
where a drain was belching furious, tawny water into 
the stream, and shaking the spears of the bulrushes. 

As I went on towards Chilworth, gorse was blos- 
soming on the banks of the road. Behind the 
blossom rose up the masses of hillside wood, now 
scarcely interrupted save by a few interspaces of 
lawn-like grass ; and seated at the foot of all this 
oak and pine were the Chilworth powder mills. 
Two centuries have earned them nobody's love or 
reverence ; for there is something inhuman, dia- 
bolical, in permitting the union which makes these 
unrelated elements more powerful than any beast, 
crueller than any man. 



72 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Crossing the little railway from the mills, I came 
in sight of the Hog's Back, by which I must go 
to Farnham. That even, straight ridge pointing 
westward, and commanding the country far away 
on either side, must have had a road along it since 
man went upright, and must continue to have one 
so long as it is a pleasure to move and to use the 
eyes together. It is a road fit for the herald Mer- 
cury and the other gods, because it is as much in 
heaven as on earth. The road I was on, creeping 
humbly and crookedly to avoid both the steepness 
of the hills and the wetness of the valley, was by 
comparison a mole run. Between me and the 
Hog's Back flowed the Wey, and as the Tilling- 
bourne approached it the valley spread out and 
flattened into Shalford's long, wet common. My 
road crossed the common, a rest for gypsies and 
their ponies. Shalford village also is on the flat, 
chiefly on the right hand side of the road, nearer 
the hill, and away from the river, so that its out- 
look over the levels gives it a resemblance to a 
seaside village. Instead of the sea it had formerly 
a fair ground of a hundred and forty acres. Its inn 
is the " Queen Victoria " charmless name. 

To avoid the Wey and reach Guildford, which is 
mainly on this side of the water, I had to turn 
sharp to the right at Shalford, and to penetrate, along 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 73 

with the river, the hills which I had been following. 
Within half a mile of Guildford I was at the point 
where the Pilgrim's Way, travelling the flank of 
these hills, descends towards the Wey and the 
Hog's Back opposite. A small but distinct hill, 
with a precipitous, sandy face, rises sheer out of 
the far side of the river where the road once crossed. 
The silver-gray square of the ruins of St. Catherine's 
Chapel tops the cliff. The river presently came 
close to my bank ; the road climbed to avoid it, 
and brought me into Guildford by Quarry Road, 
well above the steep-built, old portion of the town 
and its church and rookery sycamores, though be- 
low the castle. 

The closed shops, plate glass, and granite road- 
way of the High Street put the worst possible 
appearance on the rain that suddenly poured down 
at six. A motor car dashed under the " Lion " 
arch for shelter. The shop doorways were rilled 
by foot-passengers. The plate glass, the granite, 
and the rain rebounding from it and rushing in 
two torrents down the steep gutters, made a scene 
of physical and spiritual chill under a sky that 
had now lost even the pretence to possess a sun. 
I had thought not to decide for or against going 
on to Farnham that night until I had drunk tea. 
But having once sat in a room not of the " Jolly 



74 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Butcher," but a commercial temperance hotel 
where I could only hear the rain falling from the 
sky and dripping from roofs, I glided into the 
resolution to spend the night there. A fire was 
lit; the servant stood a poker vertically against 
the grate to make it burn ; and, after some mis- 
givings, it did burn. The moon was mounting the 
clear east, and Venus stood with Orion in the west 
above a low, horizontal ledge of darkest after-sun- 
set cloud. There could not have been a better 
tune for those ten miles to Farnham ; but I did 
not go. Not until after supper did I go out to 
look at the night I had lost, the cold sea of sky, 
the large bright moon, the white stars over the 
shimmering roofs, and the yellow street lamps and 
window panes of Guildford. I walked haphazard, 
now to the right, now to the left, often by narrow 
passages and dark entries. I skirted the railings 
of the gardens which have been made out of the 
castle site, the square ivy-patched keep, the dry 
moat full of sycamores ; and hereby was a kissing 
corner. I crossed Quarry Road and went down 
Mill Lane to the " Miller's Arms," the water- 
works, and the doubled Wey roaring in turbid 
streams. A footbridge took me to Mill Mead, the 
" Britannia," and the faintly nautical cottages 
that look, over a gas-lit paved space, at the river 



LONDON TO GUILDFORD. 75 

and the timber sheds of the other bank. The 
dark water, the dark houses, the silvered, wet, 
moonlit streets, called for some warm, musical life 
in contrast. But except that a sacred concert 
was proceeding near the market place, there was 
nothing like it accessible. Many couples hurried 
along: at corners here and there a young man, 
or two young men, talked to a girl. The inns were 
not full, too many travellers having been discour- 
aged. I had the temperance commercial hotel to 
myself, but for two men who had walked from 
London and had no conversation left in them, 
as was my case also. I dallied alternately with 
my maps and with the pictures on the wall. One 
of these I liked, a big square gloomy canvas, where 
a dark huntsman of Byron's time, red-coated and 
clean-shaven, turned round on his horse to cheer 
the hounds, one of them almost level with him, 
glinting pallid through the mist of time, two others 
just pushing their noses into the picture ; it had a 
background of a dim range of hills and a spire. 
The whole picture was as dim as memory, but more 
powerful to recall the nameless artist and nameless 
huntsman than that cross at Leatherhead. 



III. 

GUILDFOED TO DUNBBIDGE. 

/"^OCKS crowing and wheels thundering on 
^-/ granite waked me at Guildford soon after 
six. I was out at seven, after paying 3s. 6d. for 
supper and bed : breakfast I was to have at Farn- 
ham. I have often fared as well as I did that 
night at a smaller cost, and worse at a larger. At 
Guildford itself, for example, I went recently into 
a place of no historic interest or natural beauty, 
and greenly consented to pay 3s. for a bed, although 
the woman, in answer to my question, said that 
the charge for supper and breakfast would be ac- 
cording to what I had. What I had for supper 
was two herrings and bread and butter, and a cup 
of coffee afterwards ; for breakfast I had bacon 
and bread and tea. The supper cost Is. 6d., ex- 
clusive of the coffee; the breakfast cost Is. 6d. 
exclusive of the tea. Nor did these charges pre- 
vent the boots, who had not cleaned my boots, 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 77 

from hanging round me at parting, as if I had 
been his long-lost son. 

The beautiful, still, pale morning was as yet 
clouded by the lightest of white silk streamers. 
The slates glimmered with yesterday's rain in the 
rising sun. It was too fine, too still, too sunny, 
but the castle jackdaws rejoiced in it, crying 
loudly in the sycamores, on the old walls, or high 
in air. By the time I was beginning to mount the 
Hog's Back, clouds not of silk were assembling. 
They passed away ; others appeared, but the rain 
was not permitted to fall. Many miles of country 
lay cold and soft, but undimmed, on both hands. 
On the north it was a mostly level land where 
hedgerow trees and copses, beyond the first field 
or two, made one dark wood to the eye, but rising 
to the still darker heights of Bisley and Chobham 
on the horizon, and gradually disclosing the red 
settlements of Aldershot and Farnborough, and the 
dark high land of Bagshot. On the south at first 
I could see the broken ridge of Hindhead, Black- 
down, and Olderhill, and through the gap a glimpse 
of the Downs ; then later the piny country which 
culminates in the dome of Crooksbury Hill ; and 
nearer at hand a lower but steeply rising and 
falling region of gorse, bracken, and heather inter- 
mingled with ploughland of almost bracken colour, 



78 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and with the first hop gardens. Both the level- 
seeming sweep on the north and the hills of the 
south, clear as they were in that anxious light, 
were subject to the majestic road on the Hog's 
Back. A mile out of Guildford the road is well 
upon the back, and for five or six miles it runs 
straight, yet not too straight, with slight change 
of altitude, yet never flat, and for the most part 
upon the very ridge the topmost bristles of the 
Hog's Back. The ridge, in fact, has in some parts 
only just breadth enough to carry the road, and 
the land sinks away rapidly on both hands, giving 
the traveller the sensation of going on the crest of 
a stout wall, surveying his immense possessions 
northward and southward. The road has a further 
advantage that would be great whatever its posi- 
tion, but on this ridge is incalculable. It is bor- 
dered, not by a hedge, but by uneven and in places 
bushy wastes, often as wide as a field. The 
wastes, of course, are divided from the cultivated 
slopes below by hedges, but either these are low, 
as on the right, or they are irregularly expanded 
into thickets of yew and blackthorn, and even into 
beech plantations, as on the left. Whoever cares 
to rides or walks here instead of on the dust. A goat 
or two were feeding here. There was, and there 
nearly always is, an encampment of gypsies. The 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 79 

telegraph posts and the stout, three- sided, old, white 
milestones stand here. The telegraph posts, in one 
place, for some distance alternate with low, thick 
yew trees. I liked those telegraph posts, business- 
like and mysterious, and their wires that are suffi- 
cient of themselves to create the pathetic fallacy. 
None the less, I liked the look of the gypsies camp- 
ing under them. If they were not there, in fact, 
they would have to be invented. They are at 
home there. See them at nightfall, with their 
caravans drawn up facing the wind, and the men 
by the half -door at the back smoking, while the 
hobbled horses are grazing and the children play- 
ing near. The children play across the road, motor 
cars or no motor cars, laughing at whoever amuses 
them. There were two caravans at the highest 
point near Puttenham, where the ridge is so narrow 
that the roadside thicket is well below the road, 
and I saw clear to Hindhead : in another place 
there were two antique, patched tents on hoops. 

The wind was now strong in my face again. But 
it did not rain, and at moments the sun had the 
power to warm. There was not a moment when 
I had not a lark singing overhead. On the right 
hand slope, which is more gradual than that to the 
left, men were rolling some grass fields, harrowing 
others ; lower down they were ploughing. Men 



80 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

were beginning to work among the hop poles on 
the left. The oaks in the woods there were each 
individualized, and had a smoky look which they 
would not have had in Summer, Autumn, or Winter. 
Houses very seldom intrude on the waste, and 
there are few near it. On the south side two or 
three big houses had been built so as to command 
Hindhead, etc., and a board directed me to the 
" Jolly Farmer " at Puttenham, but no inn was 
visible till I came to the " Victory," which was 
well past the half-way mark to Farnham. The 
north side showed not more than a cottage or two, 
until I began to descend towards Farnham and 
came to a villa which had trimmed the waste out- 
side its gates and decorated it with the inscription, 
" Keep off the grass." Going downhill was too 
much of a pleasure for me to look carefully at Run- 
fold, though I noticed another " Jolly Farmer " 
there, and a " Princess Royal," with the date 
1819. This not very common sign put into my 
head the merry song about the " brave Princess 
Royal " that set sail from Gravesend 

" On the tenth of December and towards the year's end," 

and met a pirate, who asked them to " drop your 
main topsail and heave your ship to," but got 
the answer, 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 81 

" We'll drop our main topsail and heave our ship to, 
But that in some harbour, not alongside of you. 
So we hoisted the royals and set the topsail, 
And the brave Princess Royal soon showed them her tail : 
And we went a-cruising, and we went a-cruising, 
And we went a-cruising, all on the salt seas." 

The good tune and merry words lasted me down 
among the market gardens and florists' plantations, 
past the " Shepherd and Flock " at the turning to 
Moor Park, to the Wey again, and the first oast- 
house beside it, and so into Farnham at a quarter 
to nine, which I felt to be breakfast time. 

While I drank my coffee the rising wind slammed 
a door and the first shower passed over. The sun 
shone for me to go to the " Jolly Farmer " across 
the Wey, in a waterside street of cottages and 
many inns, such as the " Hop Bag," the " Bird 
in Hand," and the " Lamb." The " Jolly Farmer," 
Cobbett's birthplace, a small inn standing back a 
little, with a flat black and white front, was labelled 
" Cobbett's Birthplace," in letters as big as are 
usually given to the name of a brewer. It is built 
close up against a low sandy bank, which continues 
above the right shore of the Wey, somewhat con- 
spicuously, for miles. Behind the " Jolly Farmer " 
this bank is a cliff, hollowed out into caves (no one 
knows how old, or whether made by Druids or 

smugglers), and overgrown by bushes and crowned 

6 



82 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

by elms full of rooks' nests. The whole of this 
waterside is attractive, rustic, but busy. The 
Wey is already a strong stream there, and timber 
yards and warehouses abut on it. A small public 
garden occupies the angle made by one of its 
willowy bends. 

Farnham West Street was for the moment warm 
in the sun as I walked slowly between its shops to 
where the porched brick fronts of decent old houses 
were scarcely interrupted by a quiet shop or two 
and the last inns, the " Rose and Thistle " and the 
" Holly Bush." It is one of those streets in which 
a hundred houses have been welded into practically 
one block. There are some very old houses, some 
that are old, and some not very old, but all to- 
gether compose one long, uneven wall of rustic 
urbanity. Castle Street is entirely different. It 
takes its name from the Bishop of Winchester's 
castle, a palace of old red brick and several cedars 
standing at its upper end. Being about three times 
as broad as West Street, it is fit to be compared for 
breadth with the streets of Marlborough, Wootton 
Bassett, or Epsom. Most of the houses are private 
and not big, of red or of plastered or whitened 
brick ; but there is a baker's shop, a " Nelson's 
Arms," and a row of green-porched alms-houses. 
At the far end the street rises and curves a little 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 83 

to the left, and is narrowed by the encroachment 
of front gardens only possessed by the houses at 
that point. A long flight of steps above this curve 
ascends a green slope of arum and ivy and chest- 
nut trees, past an old episcopal fruit wall, to a 
rough- cast gateway, with clock and belfry, and 
beyond that, the palace and two black, many- 
storied cedars towering at its front door. 

I looked in vain for a statue of Cobbett in Farn- 
ham. Long may it be before there is one, for it will 
probably be bad and certainly unnecessary. So 
long as " Rural Rides " is read he needs not to 
share that kind of resurrection of the just with 
Queen Anne and the late Dukes of Devonshire 
and of Cambridge. The district has bred yet an- 
other man who combines the true countryman 
and the writer. I mean, of course, George Bourne, 
author of " The Bettesworth Book," a volume which 
ought to go on to the most select shelf of coun- 
try books, even beside those of White, Cobbett, 
Jefferies, Hudson, and Burroughs. Bettesworth was 
a Surrey labourer, a neighbour and workman of 
the author's. He was an observant and communi- 
cative man : his employer took notes from time 
to time, and the book is mainly a record of con- 
versations. George Bourne gives a brief setting to 
the old man's words, yet a sufficient one. Pain 



84 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and sorrow are not absent, and afar off we see a 
gray glimpse of the workhouse ; but the whole is 
joyful. Even when Bettesworth " felt a bit Christ- 
massy " there is no melancholy ; his head merely 
seems " all mops and brooms." His wife tells him 
that he has been laughing in his sleep. " I was 
always laughing, then," he says, " until I was sore 
all round wi' it." We have Bettesworth's own 
words in most cases, and George Bourne never in- 
terferes except to help. There is no insipid con- 
trast with the outer world, though here and there 
we have an echo from it ; we hear of railways as 
not particularly convenient, and a dull way of 
travelling; and of cut-purses, "got up they was, 
ye know, reg'lar fly-looking blokes, like gentlemen." 
Nothing is omitted but what had to be. Bettes- 
worth cleaned cesspools at times, and the best 
things in the book centre round his " excellent 
versatility in usefulness." Well-sinking, reaping, 
lawn-mowing, pole-pulling in the hop garden, mend- 
ing of roofs and steeples, and all the glorious 
activities connected with horses, had come into his 
work : as for adventure, he drove his first pair of 
cart horses from Staines to Smithfield Market. He 
had been a wanderer, too. During a long absence 
from friends he wrote to a brother, enclosing a gift; 
but on the way to the post he met an acquaintance, 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 85 

" and I ast'n if he'd 'ave a drink. So when he 
says yes, I took the letter an' tore out the dollar 
an' chucked the letter over the hedge. An' we went 
off an' 'ad a bottle o' rum wi' this dollar. An' 
that's all as they ever heerd o' me for seven year." 

But the conversations themselves were held 
while Bettesworth was laying turf, or during the 
quite genial fatigue following a fifteen-hour day. 
" Laying Turf " is one of the most charming pieces 
in the world. The old steeple-mender, reaper, and 
carter was laying turf under continuous rain and in 
an uncomfortable attitude, and made the unexpected 
comment : " Pleasant work this. I could very well 
spend my time at it, with good turfs." 

"The Bettesworth Book" appeared in 1901. 
"Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer," the record of 
Bettesworth's last years 1892-1905 appeared in 
1907. At first the book may seem tame, a piece of 
reporting which leaves the reader not unaware of 
the notebooks consulted by the author. But in the 
end comes a picture out of the whole, painfully, 
dubiously emerging, truthful undoubtedly, subtle, 
not easy to understand, which raises George Bourne 
to a high place among observers. Apart from his 
observation, too, he shows himself a man with a ripe 
and generous, if staid, view of life, and a writer 
capable of more than accurate writing : witness 



86 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

his picture of frozen rime on telegraph wires, of 
Bettesworth's " polling beck " or potato fork, and 
phrases like this : " Near the beans there were 
brussels sprouts, their large leaves soaked with 
colour out of the clouded day." 

Bettesworth had fought in the Crimea, and during 
sixty years had been active unceasingly over a 
broad space of English country Surrey, Sussex, 
and Hampshire always out of doors. His mem- 
ory was good, his eye for men and trades a vivid 
one, and his gift of speech unusual, " with swift 
realistic touch, convincingly true ; " so that a pic- 
ture of rural England during the latter half of the 
nineteenth century, by one born in the earlier hah* 
and really belonging to it, is the result. The por- 
trait of an unlettered pagan English peasant is 
fascinating. He lived in a parish where people of 
urban habits were continually taking the place of 
the older sort who dropped out, but he had him- 
self been labourer, soldier, " all sorts of things ; 
but . . . first and last by taste a peasant, with 
ideas and interests proper to another England than 
that in which we are living now," and perhaps 
unconscious of the change since the days when 
he saw four men in a smithy making an axe-head : 
" Three with sledge- 'ammers, and one with a little 
'ammer, tinkin' on the anvil . . . There was one 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 87 

part of making a axe as they'd never let anybody 
see 'em at." 

The talk, and George Bourne's comments reveal 
this man's way of thinking and speaking, his lonely 
thoughts, and his attitude in almost every kind 
of social intercourse. They show his physical 
strength, his robust and gross enjoyment, his iso- 
lation, his breeding and independence, his tender- 
ness without pity, his courage, his determination 
to endure. No permissible amount of quotation 
can explain the subtle appeal of his talk, for 
example, whilst turf -laying, 

" Half unawares it came home to me, like the 
contact of the garden mould, and the smell of the 
earth, and the silent saturation of the cold air. 
You could hardly call it thought the quality in 
this simple prattling. Our hands touching the 
turfs had no thought either ; but they were alive 
for all that ; and of such a nature was the lif e 
in Bettesworth's brain, in its simple touch upon 
the circumstances of his existence. The fretful 
echoes men call opinions did not sound in it ; 
clamour of the daily press did not disturb its quiet ; 
it was no bubble puffed out by learning, nor indeed 
had it any of the gracefulness which some mental 
life takes from poetry and art ; but it was still a 
genuine and strong elemental life of the human 



88 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

brain that during those days was my companion. 
It seemed as if something very real, as if the true 
sound of the life of the village had at last reached 
my dull senses." 

It will now reach duller senses than George 
Bourne's. No one has told better how a peasant 
who has not toned his other virtues with thrift is 
deserted in the end by God and even the majority 
of men. The "Memoirs" are shadowed from the 
first by the helplessness of Bettesworth's epileptic 
wife. The whole of his last year was a dimly lighted, 
solitary, manly agony. . . . Now, a statue of Fred- 
erick Bettesworth might well be placed at the foot 
of Castle Street, to astonish and annoy, if a sculptor 
could be found. 

As I was passing the " Jolly Sailor " and its jolly 
signboard, a gypsy, a sturdy, black-haired, and 
brown - faced woman, was coming into Farnham 
carrying a basket packed tight with daffodils. The 
sun shone and was warm, but the low road was still 
wet. It was the Pilgrim's Way now, not merely a 
parallel road such as I had been on since Dorking. 
For some miles it kept the Wey in sight, and over 
beyond the river, that low wall and ledge of sand, 
used by the railway, crested with oak and pine here 
and there, and often dappled on its slope with gorse. 
The land on my right was different, being largely 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 89 

sodden, bare, arable, with elms. But it was a pleas- 
ure to ride and walk and always to see the winding 
river and its willows, and that even green terrace now 
near, now far. Looking across at this scene were 
a number of detached houses, old and new, at good 
intervals along the right hand side of the road : 
some of them could see also the long Alice Holt 
woods of oaks and larches, the tips of certain small 
groups of trees gilded fitfully by the sunshine. At 
Willey Mill, soon after leaving Farnham, the road 
actually touched the river, and horses can walk 
through it parallel to the road and cool their feet ; 
and just past this, I entered Hampshire. More 
often the river was midway between my road and 
the terrace, touching an old farm-house of brick and 
timber in the plashy meadows, or turning a mill 
with a white plunge of water under sycamores. 
But the gayest and most springlike sign was the 
fresh whitewash on every fruit tree in an orchard 
by the wayside ; it suggested a festival. The poles 
were being set up in the hop gardens. The hedges 
enclosing them had been allowed to grow up to a 
great height for a screen against wind, and to make 
a diaphanous green wall. Many were the buildings 
related to hops, whose mellow brickwork seemed to 
have been stained by a hundred harvests. 

Bentley, the first village in Hampshire, seemed 



90 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

hardly more than a denser gathering, and all on the 
right hand, of the houses that had been scattered 
along since Farnham, with the addition of two inns 
and of a green which a brooklet crosses and turns 
into a pond at the road's edge. After Bentley the 
road ascended, the place of houses was taken by 
trees, chiefly lines of beeches connected with several 
embowered mansions at some distance, one of pale 
stone, one of dark brick. Several rookeries inhabited 
these beeches. Froyle House, perhaps the chief in 
this neighbourhood, stood near where the road is 
highest, and yet closest to the river a many-gabled 
pale house next to a red church tower among elms 
and blacl'-flamed cypresses. Up to the church and 
house a quarter of a mile of grass mounted, with 
some isolated ancient thorns and many oaks, which 
in one spot near the road gathered together into a 
loose copse. The park itself ran with not too con- 
spicuous or regular a boundary into hop gardens 
and ploughland. A low wall on a bank separated 
it from the road, and where a footpath had to pass 
the wall the stile was a slab of stone pierced by two 
pairs of foot-holes, approached up the bank by three 
stone steps. It was here, and at eleven, that I 
first heard the chiffchaff saying, " Chiff-chaff, chiff- 
chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff ! " A streamlet darted out 
of the park towards the Wey, and on the other side 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 91 

of the road, and below it, had to itself a little 
steep coomb of ash trees. An oak had been felled 
on the coomb side, and a man was clearing the brush- 
wood round it, but the small bird's double note, 
almost as regular as the ticking of a clock, though 
often coming to an end on the first half, sounded 
very clear in the coomb. He sang as he flitted 
among the swaying ash tops in that warm, cloudy 
sun. I thought he sang more shrilly than usual, 
something distractedly. But I was satisfied. Noth- 
ing so convinces me, year after year, that Spring 
has come and cannot be repulsed, though checked it 
may be, as this least of songs. In the blasting or 
dripping weather which may ensue, the chiffchaff 
is probably unheard; but he is not silenced. I 
heard him on March 19 when I was fifteen, and I 
believe not a year has passed without my hearing 
him within a day or two of that date. I always 
expect him and always hear him. Not all the 
blackbirds, thrushes, larks, chaffinches, and robins 
can hide the note. The silence of July and August 
does not daunt him. I hear him yearly in Sep- 
tember, and .well into October the sole Summer 
voice remaining save in memory. But for the wind 
I should have heard him yesterday. I went on 
more cheerfully, as if each note had been the ham- 
mering of a tiny nail into Winter's coffin. 



92 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

My road now had the close company of the 
railway, which had crossed the river. The three 
ran side by side on a strip not more than a quarter 
of a mile in breadth ; but the river, small, and not 
far from its source, was for the most part invisible 
behind the railway. Close to the railway bank 
some gypsies had pitched a tent, betrayed by the 
scarlet frock of one of the children. But in a 
moment scarlet abounded. The hounds crossing 
road and railway in front of me were lost to sight 
for several minutes before they reappeared on the 
rising fields towards Binsted Wyck. The riders, 
nearly all in scarlet, kept coming in for ten minutes 
or so from all hands, down lanes, over sodden 
arable land, between hop gardens, past folded 
sheep. Backwards and forwards galloped the 
scarlet before the right crossing of the railway 
was taken. The fox died in obscurity two miles 
away. 

How warm and sweet the sun was can be imagined 
when I say that it made one music of the horn- 
blowing, the lambs' bleating, the larks' singing, as I 
sat looking at Bonham's Farm. This plain old 
brick house, with fourteen windows two dormers 
symmetrically placed, fronted the road down two 
or three hundred yards of straight, hedged cart 
track. It had spruce firs on the left, on the right 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 93 

some beeches and a long barn roof stained ochre 
by lichens. 

Then I came to Holybourne. It is a village built 
in a parallelogram formed by a short section of the 
main road, two greater lengths of parallel by-roads, 
and a cross road connecting these two. Froyle was 
of an equally distinct type, lying entirely on a by- 
road parallel to the main road, near the church 
and great house, as Bentley lay entirely on one 
side of the mam road, half a mile from its church. 
Holybourne Church Holy Rood stands at the 
corner where the short cross road joins one of the 
side roads ; where it joins the other is the Manor 
Farm. I turned up by the " White Hart " and 
the smithy and chestnut with which the village 
begins, and found the church. It is a flint and 
stone one, with a moderately sharp shingled spire 
that spreads out at the base. On the side away 
from the main road, that is northward, lies plough- 
land mixed with copse rising to the horizon, but, 
near by, a hop garden, an oast-house, a respectable, 
square, ivy-mantled farm-house possessing a fruit 
wall, a farmyard occupied by black pigs, and a long 
expanse of corrugated iron, roofing old whitestone 
sheds and outbuildings. Southward is a chalk-bot- 
tomed pond of clear water, containing two sallow 
islets, and bordered, where it touches the road, by 



94 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

chestnuts, a lime, and an ivy- strangled spruce fir. 
This pond is not cut off in any way from the church- 
yard and all its tombstones of Lillywhites, Warners, 
Mays, Fidlers, Knights, Inwoods, and Burninghams. 
In the church I saw chiefly two things : the wall 
tablet to " George Penton, Brassfounder, Member 
of the Worshipful Company of Drapers, who re- 
sided in New Street Square, and whose remains 
were deposited in St. Bride's parish church, 
London," and a slender window decorated 
with tiny flowered discs of alternating blue and 
orange. 

Holybourne's shrubberies, and the beeches and 
elms of an overhanging rookery, shadowed and 
quieted the main road as if it had been private. 
Moreover, there was still some sun to help dapple 
the dust with light as well as leaf shadow. Nor 
was the wind strong, and what there was 
helped me. 

Before the village had certainly ended, Alton 
had begun. Its grandest building was its first the 
workhouse. It is an oblong brick building lying 
back behind its gardens, with a flat ivied front 
which is pierced by thirty-three windows, including 
dormers, placed symmetrically about a central door, 
and an oval stone tablet bearing the figures " 1795." 
It smacked of 1795 pure and simple ; of the Eng- 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 95 

land which all the great men of the nineteenth 
century were born in and nearly all hated. Its 
ivy, its plain, honest face, and substantial body of 
mellow red brick, and that date, 1795, gave the 
workhouse a genial tranquillity which no doubt was 
illusory. From there to the end of Alton is one 
not quite straight or quite level street Normandy 
Street and High Street altogether a mile of houses 
and of shops (including the " Hop Poles," the 
"Barley Mow," and the "French Horn") that 
supply everything a man needs, with the further 
advantage that if a man wants his hair cut he can 
have it done by Julius Caesar : the town brews beer, 
and even makes paper. It is a long and a low 
town, and the main street has no church in it until 
it begins to emerge on to the concluding green, 
called Robin Hood Butts. 

I could have gone as well through Medstead as 
through Ropley to Alresford, but I went by the 
Ropley way, and first of all through Chawton. 
Here the road forks at a smithy, among uncrowded 
thatched cottages and chestnuts and beeches. The 
village is well aware of the fact that Jane Austen 
once dwelt in a house at the fork there, opposite the 
" Grey Friar." I took the right hand road and 
had a climb of two miles, from 368 feet above 
sea level to 64$ feet. This road ascended, parallel 



96 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

to the railway, in a straight, narrow groove, and 
was fringed on both sides for some distance, up 
to and past the highest point, by hedgeless copses 
of oak and beech, hazel, thorn, and ivy. An old 
chalk pit among the trees had been used for de- 
positing pots and pans, but otherwise the copses 
might never have been entered except by the chiff- 
chaff that sang there, and seemed to own them. 
Once out in the open at Four Marks, I had spread 
out around me a high but not hilly desolation of 
gray grass, corrugated iron bungalows, and chicken- 
runs. I glided as fast as possible away from this 
towards the Winchester Downs beyond, not paus- 
ing even at the tenth milestone from Winchester 
to enjoy again that brief broadening on either hand 
of the rough wayside turf, sufficient to make a fair 
ground. Past the " Chequers " at Ropley Dean, 
and again past the " Anchor " towards Bishop's 
Sutton, there are similar and longer broadenings ; 
and on one of these two tramps were lying asleep, 
the one hid by hat and clothes, the other with clear 
outstanding pale profile, hands clasped over the 
fifth rib, and feet stuck up, like a carved effigy. 
I was as glad to see them sleeping in the sun as to 
hear the larks singing. I would have done the 
same if I had been somebody else. 

Bishop's Sutton, the next village, resembles Holy- 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 97 

bourne in the shrubberies with which it hushes the 
road. Passing the "Plough" and the "Ship" 
(kept by a man with the great Hampshire name of 
Port), I went into the church, which was decorated 
by the memorial tablets of people named Wright 
and an eighteenth century physician named William 
Cowper, and by daffodils and primroses arranged in 
moss and jam jars. Many dead flowers were lit- 
tered about the floor. The churchyard was better, 
for it had a tree taller than the tower, and another 
lying prone alongside the road for children to play 
on, and very few tombstones. Of these few, one 
recorded the deaths of three children in 1827-1831, 
and furthermore thus boldly baffled the infidel, 

" Bold infidelity, turn pale and die. 
Beneath this sod three infants' ashes lie. 
Say, are they lost or sav'd ? 
If Death's by sin, they sinn'd, for they lie here : 
If Heaven's by works, in Heaven they can't appear. 
Ah, reason, how depraved ! 
Eevere the Bible's sacred page, for there the knot's untied." 

The children were Oakshotts, a Hampshire name 
borne by a brook and a hanger near Hawkley. 

The telegraph wires were whining as if for rain 
as I neared Alresford, having on my right hand the 
willowy course of the young Alre, and before me 
its sedgy, wide waters, Old Alresford pond. The 
road became Alresford by being lined for a third 



98 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

of a mile downhill by cottages, inns, and shops. 
This is the whole town, except for one short, very 
broad turning half way along at the highest point, 
and opposite where the church stands bathed in 
cottages. 

Alresford is an excellent little town, sad-coloured 
but not cold, and very airy. For not only does the 
main street descend from this point steeply west 
towards Winchester, but the broad street also 
descends northward, so that over the tops of the 
houses crossing the bottom of it and over the 
hidden Alre, are seen the airy highlands of Abbots- 
stone, Swarraton, and Godsfield. The towered flint 
church and the churchyard make almost as much 
of a town as Alresford itself, so numerous are the 
tombs of all the Wools, Keanes, Corderoys, Priv- 
etts, Cameses, Whitears, Norgetts, Dykeses, scat- 
tered among many small yew trees. At one side 
stand many headstones of French officers who had 
served Napoleon, but died in England about the 
time of Waterloo Lhuille, Lavan, Gamier, Riouffe, 
and Fournier. Inside the church one of the most 
noticeable things is a tablet to one John Lake, who 
was born in 1691, died in 1759, and lies near that 
spot, waiting for the day of judgment. " Qualis 
erat" says the inscription, "dies iste indicabit : " 
(" What manner of man he was that day will make 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 99 

known.") The writer of these words saved himself 
from lies and from trouble. 

I looked in vain for any one bearing the name 
of the poet who praised Alresford pond George 
Wither. Or, rather, he praised it as it was in the 
days when Thetis resorted thither and played 
there with her attendant fishes, and received 
crowns of flowers and beech leaves from the land 
nymphs at eve : 

" For pleasant was that pool, and near it then 
Was neither rotten marsh nor boggy fen. 
It was not overgrown with boist'rous sedge, 
Nor grew there rudely then along the edge 
A bending willow nor a prickly bush, 
Nor broad-leaf'd flag, nor reed, nor knotty rush ; 
But here, well order'd, was a grove with bowers : 
There grassy plots set round about with flowers. 
Here you might through the water see the land 
Appear, strow'd o'er with white or yellow sand. 
Yon, deeper was it ; and the wind by whiffs 
Would make it rise and wash the little cliffs, 
On which oft pluming sat, unfrightened than, 
The gaggling wildgoose and the snow-white swan : 
With all those flocks of fowls that to this day 
Upon those quiet waters breed and play. 
For though those excellences wanting be 
Which once it had, it is the same that we 
By transposition name the Ford of Arle ; 
And out of which along a chalky marl 
That river trills, whose waters wash the fort 
In which brave Arthur kept his royal court." 



100 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Which, being interpreted, means Camelot, or 
Winchester. 

Yet Wither is one of the poets whom we can con- 
nect with a district of England and often cannot 
sunder from it without harm. Many other poets 
are known to have resided for a long or a short 
time hi certain places ; but of these a great many 
did not obviously owe much to their surroundings, 
and some of those that did, like Wordsworth, pos- 
sessed a creative power which made it unnecessary 
that the reader should see the places, whatever the 
railway companies may say. Wordsworth at his best 
is rarely a local poet, and his earth is an "insubstan- 
tial fairy place." But if you know the pond at Aires- 
ford before this poem, you add a secondary but very 
real charm to Wither ; while, if you read the poem 
first, you are charmed, if at all, partly because you 
see that the pond exists, and you taste something 
of the human experience and affection which must 
precede the mention. To have met the poet's name 
here would have been to furbish the charm a little. 

The name of Norgett on a stone called up Old- 
hurst into my mind, a thatched house built of flints 
in the middle of oak woods not far off ancient woods 
where the leaves of many Autumns whirled and 
rustled even in June. It was three miles from the 
hard road, and it used to seem that I had travelled 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 101 

three centuries when at last I emerged from the 
oaks and came in sight of that little humped gray 
house and within sound of the pines that shadowed 
it. It had a face like an owl ; it was looking at 
me. Norgett must have heard me coming from 
somewhere among the trees, for, as I stepped into 
the clearing at one side, he was at the other. I 
thought of Herne the Hunter on catching sight of 
him. He was a long, lean, gray man with a beard 
like dead gorse, buried gray eyes, and a step that 
listened. He hardly talked at all, and only after 
questions that he could answer quite simply. Speech 
was an interruption of his thoughts, and never 
sprang from them ; as soon as he ceased talking 
they were resumed with much low murmuring and 
whistling like that of the pine trees to himself, 
which seemed the sound of their probings in the 
vast of himself and Nature. His was a positive, 
an active silence. It did me good to be with him, 
especially after I had learned to share it with 
him, instead of trying to get him to join in gossip. 
I say I shared it, but what I did and enjoyed was, 
apparently, to sleep as we walked. It was un- 
pleasant to wake up, to go away from that cold, 
calm presence. Then, perhaps, I sneaked back for 
a talk with Mrs. Norgett, who was a little, busy 
woman with black needle eyes and a needle voice 



102 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

like a wren's, as thin and lively as a cricket ; she 
knew everything that happened, and much that 
did not. But with him she also was silent. 

These two had two daughters and, in fact, I got 
to know them by staying with a friend three miles 
away, where one of the girls was a servant : she 
said that there were always woodcocks round Old- 
hurst, and her father would introduce me. It was 
several years since I had seen Norgett and Old- 
hurst, but a letter concerning these daughters 
brought them again before me, 

" Martha Norgett is dead. I suppose you remem- 
ber her just as a stout, nervous girl, with uncom- 
fortable manners, tow hair, face always as red as 
if she had been making toast, gray eyes rather 
scared but alarmingly frank, always rushing about 
the house noisily and apologetically at the same 
time ; willing to do anything at any time for almost 
anybody, but especially for you, perhaps, when 
you stayed with us in Summer holidays. I am 
sure you could not tell me offhand how old she 
was. I can hear you saying, ' Well, the country 
girls always look much older than you said they 
were. I suppose it is the responsibility, and they 
belong to an older, more primitive type. So I 
always have an instinct to treat them deferen- 
tially. . . . She might be twenty-three or -four 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 103 

say, eighteen. But then she was just the same 
fifteen years ago. . . . Thirty thirty-five. That is 
absurd. I give it up.' . . . 

" I will not tell you her age, but I want to give 
you something of Martha's history, though it is 
now too late for the development of that instinct 
for treating her deferentially. 

" The family has been in the parish since the 
beginning of the parish register, in 1597. I should 
say that 597 would be much nearer the date when 
they settled in that clearing among the oaks. 
Fifteen centuries is not much to a temperament 
like theirs, perhaps. But they will hardly see 
another fifteen : they have not adapted themselves. 
Martha and her sister Mary were old Norgett's only 
children. I don't think you ever saw Mary. You 
would have treated her deferentially. As bright 
and sweet as a chaffinch was Mary. She had 
small, warm brown eyes that seemed to be dis- 
solving in a glow of amused pleasure at everything. 
Everybody and everything as a rule conspired to 
preserve the glow ; but now and then cruelly and 
very easily drawing tears from them because then 
they were softer than ever, and one could not help 
smiling as one wiped the tears away, as if she had 
only cried for craft and prettiness. That was 
when she was seven or eight. For a year or so she 



104 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

was always either laughing or crying. Visitors used 
to take delight in converting one into the other. 
They treated her like a bird. She had very thick 
and long, fine and dark brown hair such beautiful 
and lustrous hair ! I remember treating it as if 
it were alive, apart from her life, as if it were a 
wild creature living on her shoulders. 

" She was considered rather a stupid child. Some 
people seem to regard animals as rather stupid 
human beings never blessed with spectacles and 
baldness it was they who called her stupid. She 
never said anything wise. Usually she laughed when 
she spoke, and you could hardly make out the 
words : to try to read a meaning of an accustomed 
sort into her speech was little better than making 
a translation from a brook's song or a bird's song ; 
for in her case also it really meant translating from 
an unknown tongue. Everybody gave her presents. 
She had as many dolls as the cat had kittens. She 
was fond of people, but she seemed fonder of these, 
and, seeing her, I used to smile and think of the 
words : ' Ye shall serve gods the work of men's 
hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, 
nor eat, nor smell.' 

" There were a hundred differences between her 
and Martha. Martha had but one doll. It was an 
old stiff wooden doll, cut by the keeper for his 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 105 

first-born, and never clothed. Martha kept it in 
the wood-lodge, and would not have it in the house, 
but went to look at it just once at morning and 
once at night, and never missed doing so. She 
did not play with Mary's, though as maid-of-all- 
work, bustling about seriously and untidily, often 
breaking and upsetting things, she treated them 
with immense reverence, putting them safely away 
in a sitting posture when their mistress was tired 
of them and left them on chairs, in the hearth, or 
on the table anywhere. Nobody supposed that 
Martha cared anything for her solitary wooden 
idol, and if you inquired after it she only looked 
awkwardly into your face with those pale eyes and 
said nothing, or perhaps asked you if you would 
like to see Mary's newest one. She was always busy, 
they could not keep her from work ; she was 
strong, and never ailed or complained. If a baby 
was brought to the house, to see Mary's delicate 
ways with it was worth a journey ; surrounding it 
with dolls, and giving herself up to it and taking 
good care of it, while Martha slipped away and was 
not to be seen. Mary was tenderest hearted, and 
could never pass carelessly by anything like a calf's 
head thrust out of a hole in a dark shed into the sun. 
As for Martha she was too busy, though of course she 
would run to the town, if need were, to fetch a vet. 



106 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

"Mary was not nearly so strong, but she con- 
tinued to grow in grace and charm. At seventeen 
I think she was the loveliest human being of her 
sex that I ever saw. I say of her sex, because she 
was so absolutely and purely a woman that she 
seemed a species apart, even to me a mystery ; 
every position of her, every attitude, action, every- 
thing she did and did not do, proclaimed her a 
woman newly created out of the elements which 
but yesterday made her a child, an animal or bird 
in human form. Many would have liked to marry 
her. Her round soft chin, her rather long, and not 
too thin, smiling mouth, her living hair, her wild 
eyes, won her lovers wherever she was seen. And 
yet I had a feeling that she would not marry. . . . 
However, I came back from Italy one year to find 
her married to a young farmer near Alton. 

" Martha had already been with us for some 
years. When Mary began to have babies Martha 
was over at the farm as often as possible. Mary 
grew paler and thinner, but not less beautiful, and 
hardly less gay and childlike. She did as she 
pleased always perfectly dressed, while others, and, 
above all, Martha, busied themselves in a hundred 
ways for her and her baby. Now that she was 
obviously delicate as well as beautiful, her hair 
looked more than ever like a wild life of some kind 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 107 

affectionately attached to her. Martha worked 
harder for her, if that were possible, than for us. 
I have heard her panting away as she swept the 
stairs and sometimes sighing, too, but never stopping 
for that luxury, and her sister would call out and 
laughingly chide her for it, to which she replied with 
another laugh, not ceasing to pant or to sweep. 
Mary was adored by her husband. 

" Few men, I should say, took notice of Martha. 
She was very abrupt with them, and had nothing 
to say if they spoke out of a wish to be agree- 
able. Now and then she reported some advance 
a soldier, for example, offered to carry her parcels 
home for her at night ; but as soon as they turned 
from the high road into our dark lane she found an 
excuse, swept up all the parcels into her arms and 
was off without a word. Another time she allowed 
herself to be taken home on several evenings by a 
young man whose real sweetheart was away for a 
time : he had told her the fact, and politely asked 
if she would like him to take her home in the 
interval. What Martha wanted was a baby. She 
was the laughing-stock of the kitchen for con- 
fessing it. She did not mind : she stitched away 
at baby's underclothing which all went for her 
sister's infants, but was meant for her own. She 
once bought a cradle at an auction sale do you 



108 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

feel deferential now ? Yet one man she put off 
by telling him she already had a lover. 

" Did you ever hear of her one dream ? She came 
hi and told us in great excitement that she had had 
a dream. She said, ' It was as plain as plain, and 
all the family were eating boiled potatoes with 
their fingers except me. Law, mum, that ever I 
should have dreamed such a thing.' . . . She blushed 
that the family should have been put to shame in 
a dream of hers. 

" At last we heard that she had a lover. Her 
fellow servants accused her of doing the courting, 
and he was younger than she. She was not im- 
patient, even now. When she heard that we were 
to move in a year's time, she made up her mind 
that she must go to the new house and see what 
it was like living there. ' He's not so bad,' she said 
quietly. ' Father and mother think the world of 
him. It's not love. Oh, no ! I'm too old for that, 
and I won't have any nonsense. But he says he'll 
marry me. We shall love after that, maybe ; but 
if not, there'll be the children. We shall have a nice 
little home. Charley has bought a mirror, and he 
is saving up for a ring with a real stone in it.' And 
so she went on soberly, yet perhaps madly. 

" We moved, and Martha with us. She had to 
wait still longer, because Mary was expecting 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 109 

another child. Mary was not so well as usual. She 
was very thin, and yet looked in a way younger 
than ever. Martha left us to devote herself to 
her sister. I went over once or twice : I wish 
now it had been oftener. Martha looked the same 
as ever. Mary grew still more frail, until, in a 
ghastly way, you could not see her body for her 
soul, as the poet says. Her husband being called 
away left her confidently in Martha's hands. 

" The nearest doctor was five miles off. She 
had to go for him suddenly in a night of winter 
thunder. The whole night was up in arms, the 
black clouds and the woods, the noises of a great 
wind and thunder trying to get the better of one 
another, and the rain drowning the lightning as if 
it had been no more than an eel in a dirty pond, 
and drowning thunder and the wind at last. When 
Martha reached the doctor's house he was out. 
She found another, and having meekly delivered her 
message was gone before the man could offer to 
drive her back with him ; but the horse was so help- 
less in the stormy, steep, crooked roads among the 
Avoods that he expected to find her there before him. 
When he arrived Mary was delirious, speaking of her 
sister, whom she seemed to see approaching and at 
last coming into the room ; she cried out, ' Martha ! ' 
and never spoke again. Martha had not returned. 



110 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

The cowman found her lying on her face in the 
mire by a gateway, stopped in her swift, clumsy 
running by heart-failure, dead. Poor old Martha ! 
but I have no doubt she was quite happy making 
for that green blind upstairs in her sister's house, 
hastening half asleep, and only waking up as she 
stumbled over the stile. The world misses her 
and her children." 

I had never met the surname before, and here 
upon a stranger's tombstone it called up Martha 
like a mysterious incantation. 

The tune of the telegraph wires became sadder, 
and I pushed on with the purpose of getting as 
far as possible before the rain fell. The road out 
of Alresford is dignified by a long avenue of elms, 
with a walk between, lining it on the right as far 
as the gate of Arlebury House. Opposite the last 
of the trees it was a pleasure to see on a wayside 
plot, where elms mingled with telegraph posts, a 
board advertising building sites, but leaning awry, 
mouldy, and almost illegible. Then the road went 
under the railway and bent south-westwards, while 
I turned to the right to follow a byway along the 
right bank of the Itchen, where there was a village 
every two or three miles, and I could be sure of 
shelter. The valley, a flat-bottomed marshy one, 
was full of drab-tufted grasses and new-leafed 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. Ill 

willows, and pierced by straight, shining drains. 
The opposite bank rose up rather steeply, and was 
sometimes covered with copse, sometimes carved 
by a chalk pit ; tall trees with many mistletoe 
boughs grew on top. I got to Itchen Abbas, its 
bridge, mill, church, and " Plough," all in a group, 
when the rain was beginning. I had not gone much 
further when it became clear that the rain was to 
be heavy and lasting, and I took shelter in a cart- 
lodge. There I was joined by a thatcher and a deaf 
and dumb labourer. The thatcher would talk of 
nothing but the other man, having begun by ex- 
plaining that he could not be expected to say " Good- 
afternoon." The deaf man sat on the straw and 
watched us. He was the son of a well-to-do farmer, 
but had left home because he did not get enough 
money and was in other ways imposed on. He had 
now been at the same farm thirty years. He was 
a good workman, understanding by signs what he 
had to do. Moreover, he could read the lips, 
though how he learnt for he could neither read 
nor write I do not know ! Probably, said the 
thatcher, he knows what we are saying now. At 
half-past three the horses came in for the day. 
They had begun at half -past six ; so, said the 
thatcher, " they don't do a man's work." So we 
talked while the horses were stabled, and rain fell 



112 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and it thundered, if not to the tune of " Green- 
sleeves," at least to that of blackbirds' songs. 

The sky was full and sagging, but actually 
rained little, when I started soon after four, and 
went on through the four Worthys, on my left the 
low sweep of Easton Down, and the almost window- 
less high church wall among elms between it and 
the river ; and on my right, arable country and 
pewits tumbling over it. Worthy Park, a place of 
lawns and of elms and chestnuts, adorned the road 
with an avenue of very branchy elms. At King's 
Worthy, just beyond, I might have crossed over 
and taken the shortest way to Salisbury, that is 
to say, by Stockbridge. But, except at Stockbridge 
itself, there is hardly a house on the twenty miles 
of road, and either one inn or two. Evidently the 
sky could not long contain itself, and as I knew 
enough of English inns to prefer not arriving at one 
wet through, I determined to take the Roman road 
through Headbourne Worthy to Winchester. This 
brought me through a region of biggish houses, 
shrubberies, rookeries, motor cars, and carriages, 
but also down to a brook and a withy bed, and 
Headbourne Worthy's little church and blunt 
shingled spire beside it. The blackbirds were 
singing their best in the hawthorns as I was passing, 
and in the puddles they were bathing before singing. 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 113 

Winchester Cathedral appeared and disappeared 
several times, and above, it slightly to the left, 
St. Catherine's smooth hill and beechen crown. 
In one of these views I saw what I had never 
before noticed, that the top of the cathedral tower 
is apparently higher than the top of St. Catherine's 
Hill. 

Through the crowd of Winchester High Street 
I walked, and straight out by the West Gate and 
the barracks uphill. I meant to use the Romsey 
road as far as Ampfield, and thence try to reach 
Dunbridge. The sky was full of rain, though none 
was falling. It was a mile before I could mount, 
and then, for some way, the road was accompanied 
on the right by yew trees. Between these trees I 
could see the low, half-wooded Downs crossed by 
the Roman road to Sarum and by hardly any 
other road. The most insistent thing there was the 
Farley Tower, perched on a barrow at one of the 
highest points, to commemorate not the unknown 
dead but a horse called Beware Chalkpit, who won 
a race in 1734 after having leaped into a chalkpit in 
1733. The eastern scene was lovelier : the clear 
green Downs above Twyford, Morestead, and 
Owslebury, four or five miles away ; and then the 
half wooded green wall of Nan Trodd's Hill which 

the road curves under to Hursley. But, first, I 

8 



114 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

had to dip down to Pitt Village, which is a small 
cluster of thatched cottages, mud walls, and beech 
trees, with a pond and a bright white chalk pit, 
all at the bottom of a deep hollow. I climbed out 
of it and glided down under Nan Trodd's Hill and 
its black yews, divided from the road only by a 
gentle rise of arable ; and so, betwixt a similar but 
slighter yew-crowned rise and the oaks of Hursley 
Park, I approached Hursley. The first thing 
was a disused pump on the right, with an ivy- 
covered shelter and a fixed lamp ; but before the 
first house there was a beech copse, and after that 
a farm and its attendant ricks and cottages, and 
at length the village. A single row of houses faced 
the park and its rookery beeches through a parallel 
row of pollard limes ; but the centre was a double 
row of neat brick and timber houses, both old and 
new, a smithy, a doctor's, and a " King's Head " 
and " Dolphin." Here also stood the spired church, 
opposite a branching of roads. At the beginning, 
middle, and end of the village, gates led into 
Hursley Park. And I think it was here that I saw 
the last oast-house in Hampshire. 

Immediately after passing the fifth milestone 
from Winchester I turned with the Romsey road 
south-west instead of keeping on southward to 
Otterbourne. It was now darkening and still. I 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 115 

was on a low moist road overhung by oak trees, 
through which I saw, on the right, a mile away, the 
big many-windowed Hursley House among its 
trees. The road had obviously once had wide 
grassy margins. The line of the old hedge was 
marked, several yards within a field on the right, 
by the oaks, the primroses, and the moss, growing 
there and not beyond : in a wood that succeeded, it 
was equally clear. The primroses glimmered in 
the dank shadow of the trees, where the old hedge 
had been, and round the water standing in old 
wayside pits. In one place on the left, by Ratlake, 
the fern and gorse looked like common. Nobody 
was using the road except the blackbirds and 
robins. Hardly a house was to be seen. It might 
have been the edge of the New Forest. If the road 
could have gone on so, with no more rise and fall, 
for ever, I think I should have been content. The 
new church and its pine, and cypress, and laurel, 
intruded but did not break the charm. More to my 
taste was the pond on the other side ; gorse came 
to its edge, oaks stood about it, and dabchicks were 
diving in its unrippled surface. The " White Hart " 
farther on tempted me. It lay rather below the 
road on the left, behind the yellow courtyard and 
the signboard, forming a quadrangle with the 
stables and sheds on either side. The pale walls 



116 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and the broad bay window on the ground floor 
offered " Accommodation for Cyclists." But I did 
not stop, perhaps because Ampfield House on the 
other side took away my thoughts from inns. 
This was an ivy-mantled brick house, like two 
houses side by side, not very far back from the 
road ; its high blossoming fruit wall bounded the 
road. Travelling so easily, I was loth to dismount, 
and on the signpost on the right, near the third 
milestone from Romsey, I read MSBURY without 
thinking of Timsbury, which lay on my way to Dun- 
bridge. I glided on for half a mile before thinking 
better of it, and turning back, discovered my mis- 
take. Here I entered a gravelly, soft road among 
trees. I should have done well to put up in one 
of the woodmen's shelters here under the oaks. 
These huts were frames of stout green branches 
thatched with hazel peelings and walled with 
fagots. One was built so that an oak divided its 
entrance in two, and against the tree was fastened a 
plain wooden contrivance for gripping and bending 
wood. Inside, it had other hurdlemaker's imple- 
ments a high wooden horse for gripping and bend- 
ing, and a low wooden table. White peelings were 
thickly strewn around the huts. The floor showed 
likewise such signs of life as cigarette ends, match- 
boxes, and a lobster's claw. On Saturday evening 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 117 

a marsh-tit and a robin alone seemed to have 
anything to do with them. Nevertheless I went con- 
tentedly on between mossy banks, hedges of beech, 
rhododendrons, and woodlands of oak, beech, and 
larch, which opened out in one place to show me the 
fern and pine of Ganger Common. The earth was 
quiet, dark, and beautiful. The owl was beginning 
to hunt over the fields, while the blackbird finished 
his song. Pleasant were the yellow road, the 
roadside bramble and brier hoops, the gravel pits 
and gorse at corners. But the sky was wild, 
threatening the earth both with dark clouds im- 
pending and with momentary wan gleams between 
them, angrier than the clouds. Some rain sprinkled 
as I dipped down between roadside oaks and a 
narrow orchard to Brook Farm. Here the road 
forded a brook, and a lane turned off, with a gravelly 
bluff on one side, farmyard and ricks on the other. 
Up in the pale spaces overhead Venus glared like 
a madman's eye. Yet the rain came to nothing, 
and for a little longer the few scattered house 
lights appearing and disappearing in the surround- 
ing country were mysteriously attractive. And then 
arrived complete darkness and rain together, as 
I reached the turning where I could see the chimney 
stack of Michelmersh. I tried the " Malt House " 
on the left. They could not give me a bed because 



118 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

" the missus was expecting some friends." I 
pushed on against wind and rain to the " Bear and 
Ragged Staff," a bigger inn behind a triangle of 
rushy turf and a walnut tree. " Accommodation for 
Cyclists " was announced, which I always used to 
assume meant that there was a bed ; but it does 
not. It was raining, hailing, and blowing furiously, 
but they could not give me a bed because they were 
six in family : no, not any sort of a bed. They 
directed me to the " Mill Arms " at Dunbridge. 
Crossing the Test by Kim Bridge Mill, the half- 
drowned fields smelt like the sea. The mill-house 
windows shone above the double water plunging 
away into blackness. Then, for a space, when I 
had turned sharply north-westward the wind helped 
me. Actually I was now at the third inn. They 
were polite and even smiling, but they informed me 
that I could by no means have a bed, seeing that 
the lady and gentleman from somewhere had all 
the beds. Nor could they tell me of a bed anywhere, 
because it was Easter and people with a spare room 
mostly had friends. Luckily a train was just 
starting which would bear me away from Dunbridge 
to Salisbury. I boarded it, and by eight o'clock I 
was among the people who were buying and selling 
fish and oranges to the accompaniment of much 
chaffing, but no bad temper, in Fish Row. And, 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 119 

soon, though not at once, I found a bed and a place 
to sit and eat in, and to listen to the rain breaking 
over gutters and splashing on to stones, and pipes 
swallowing rain to the best of their ability, and 
signboards creaking in the wind ; and to reflect 
on the imperfection of inns and life, and on the 
spirit's readiness to grasp at all kinds of unearthly 
perfection such, for instance, as that which had 
encompassed me this evening before the rain. At 
that point a man entered whom I slowly recognized 
as the liberator of the chaffinch on Good Friday. 
At first I did not grasp the connection between this 
dripping, indubitably real man and the wraith of 
the day before. But he was absurdly pleased to 
recognize me, bowing with a sort of uncomfortable 
graciousness and a trace of a cockney accent. His 
expression changed in those few moments from 
a melancholy and too yielding smile to a pale, 
thin-lipped rigidity. I did not know whether to 
be pleased or not with the reincarnation, when he 
departed to change his clothes. 

This Other Man, as I shall call him, ate his 
supper in silence, and then adjusted himself in the 
armchair, stretching himself out so that all of him 
was horizontal except his head. He was smoking 
a cigarette dejectedly, for he had left his pipe 
behind at Romsey. I offered him a clay pipe. No ; 



120 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

he would not have it. They stuck to his lips, he 
said. But he volunteered to talk about clay pipes, 
and the declining industry of manufacturing them. 
He seemed to know all about ten-inch and fifteen- 
inch pipes, from the arrival of the clay out of 
Cornwall in French gray blocks to the wetting of 
the clay and the beating of it up with iron rods ; the 
rough first moulding of the pipes by hand, and the 
piercing of the stems ; the baking in moulds, the 
scraping of rough edges by girls, down to the sale 
of the pipes in the two months round about Christ- 
mas to Aldershot, Portsmouth, and such places. 
These longer pipes, at any rate, have become chiefly 
ceremonious and convivial, though personally I have 
hardly ever seen them smoked except by literary 
people under thirty. No wonder that in one of 
the principal factories only one artist is left, as 
the Other Man declared, to pierce the stems with 
unerring thrust. It seemed to him wonderful that 
even one man could be found to push a wire up the 
core of a long thin stick of clay. He had never 
himself been able to avoid running the wire out at 
the side before reaching the end. The great man 
who always succeeded had once made him a pipe 
with five bowls. 

He could not tell me why the industry is decaying. 
But two causes seem at least to have contributed. 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 

First, a great many of the men who used to smoke 
clays smoke cheap cigarettes. Second, those who 
have not taken to cigarettes smoke briar pipes. 
Cigarettes appear to give less trouble than pipes. 
Any one, drunk or sober, can light them and keep 
them alight. They can be put out at any moment 
and returned to the cigarette case or tucked behind 
the ear. Also, it is held by snobs as well as by haters 
of foul pipes that cigarettes are more genteel, or 
whatever the name is of our equivalent vice. But 
if a pipe is to be smoked, the briar is believed to 
cast some sort of faint credit on the smoker which 
the clay does not. That Tennyson used clays pro- 
bably now only influences a small number of young 
men and that but for a year or two of a class 
that would not take to clays as a matter of course. 
A few others of the same class begin in imitation 
of labourer, sailor, or gamekeeper, with whom they 
have come in exhilarating contact ; and, in turn, 
others imitate them. The habit so gained, however, 
is not likely to endure. Nearly every one sheds 
it, either because he really does not enjoy it, or 
he has for some reason to keep it in abeyance too 
long for it to be resumed, or he supposes himself 
to be conspicuous and prefers not to be. 

In the first place he may have been moved partly 
by a desire to be conspicuous, to signalize his 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

individuality by a visible symbol, but such can 
seldom be a conscious motive with the most self- 
conscious of men. For some years I met plenty of 
youths of my own age who were experimenting with 
clay pipes, nervously colouring small thorny ones, 
or lying back and making of themselves cushions 
for long churchwardens, or carrying the bowl of a 
two-inch pipe upside down like a navvy. But I 
was never much tempted myself until I went to 
live permanently in the country. As I was pretty 
frequently walking at lunch time I took that meal 
at an inn, and one day remembering that as a child 
I had got clays from a publican for nothing I asked 
for one with my beer, and got it. I shall not pretend 
that this pipe was in any way remarkable, for I 
have no recollection of it. All I know is that it was 
not the last. Most, if not all, of my briar pipes at 
the time were foul. I took more and more to 
smoking clay pipes when I was alone or where it 
would not attract attention. 

It was not long before I made the discovery that 
there are clays and clays. Those given away or 
sold for a halfpenny by innkeepers between the 
North and South Downs were usually thin and 
straight, sometimes embellished with a design in 
relief, particularly with a horned head and the 
initial letters of the Royal Antediluvian Order of 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 

Buffaloes. Many and many a one of these mere 
smoking utensils was broken very soon in my teeth 
or in my pocket, or discarded because I did not like 
the feel or look of it, or. simply because it was an 
unnecessary addition to my supply. For a time 
I could and did smoke almost anything, fortified 
possibly by a feeling (though I cannot recall it) that 
the custom was worth persisting in. At any rate 
it was persisted in. 

If I pursued singularity I was not blindfold. Not 
many weeks were occupied in learning that thin 
clays were useless, or were not for me. They began 
by burning my tongue, and they were very soon 
bitten through. On the other hand, thickness alone 
was not sufficient. For example, Irish pipes up to 
a third of an inch thick were as rapidly bitten 
through as the harder thin clays. It was necessary 
to fit them with mouth-pieces connected by a tin 
band, and since these would corrode, I refused 
them. Even a clay that was hard as well as thick 
was not therefore faultless. I kept one for several 
years, at intervals trying to make terms with it 
on account of its good shape the bowl set at 
more than a right angle to the stem, and 
adorned with a conventional ribbed leaf under- 
neath but always in vain ; the clay, being hard 
after the manner of flint, gritted on the teeth 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and was no sweeter at the tenth than at the first 

Pipe- 
Wherever I went I bought a clay pipe or two. 

The majority were indifferent. Only after a time 
was the goodness of the good ones manifest, and 
by then I might be a hundred miles away from the 
shop, if I had not forgotten where it came from. 
These I did everything to preserve. Some of them 
went through the purification of fire a score of times 
before they came to an end by falling or, which was 
rare, by being worn too short. They had the great 
virtue of being hard, without being stony. They 
resembled bone in their close grain, sometimes being 
as smooth as if glazed. But I had little to do with 
the glazed " colouring " clays. They stank, and 
I was not ambitious except of achieving a cool, 
everlasting, and perfectly shaped pipe. 

How to use the fire on a foul pipe was learnt by 
very slow degrees. Many a good pipe cracked or 
flaked in the flames. They had, I was at last to dis- 
cover, been too suddenly submitted to great heat. 
If it was done gradually, the fiercest heat could be 
and should be imposed on them : they lay pinkish 
white in the heart of the fire until they possessed 
more than their original purity. A few of the best 
would emerge with almost an old ivory hue all over. 
Some I remember breaking when they had come 






GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 125 

safely out and were nearly cool, by tapping them 
to shake out the fur. Most of them were toughened 
as well as sweetened in the process. 

How very rare were those good pipes ! Probably 
I did not find more than one in twelve months, 
though I bought scores. I was continually trying 
Irish clays in a stupid hope that they would not 
be bitten through. The best pipe in the majority 
of shops was merely one that was not bad. It did 
not burn much ; it was not bitten through until 
it was just reaching its ripeness. 

Perhaps I should have remembered more varieties 
of goodness and badness had I not twelve months 
ago met a perfect clay pipe. It is so hard that I 
have only once bitten one through, yet it is soft to 
the teeth and tongue. Nor is it very thick ; the 
bowl in particular I should have been inclined at 
first sight to condemn as too thin. It is smooth, 
in fact polished. Its shape is graceful ; the stem 
slightly curved, slightly flattened, but thickening 
and developing roundness where it becomes rather 
than joins the bowl, into which it flows so as to form 
something like a calabash. There are other shapes 
of this excellent material. 

This perfect clay pipe came from a shop at 
Oxford. A month later I bought some of the 
same kind, but an inferior shape, at Melksham. 



126 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Everywhere else I have looked in vain for them. 
I have never seen any one else smoking them who 
had not got them from me. 

Tastes differ, but in this matter I cannot believe 
that any one capable of distinguishing one clay 
from another would deny this one's excellence. 

The Other Man cared nothing for the matter. 
He awoke from the stupor to which he had been 
reduced by listening, and asked, 

" Did you see that weather-vane at Albury in 
the shape of a pheasant ? or the fox- shaped one 
by the ford at Butts Green ? or the pub with the 
red shield and the three tuns and three pairs of 
wheatsheaves for a sign ? " 

" No," I answered, adding what I could remember 
about the horse's head over the corn chandler's at 
Epsom. The Other Man had seen this, and also a 
similar one of white wood over a saddler's at 
Dorking. He reminded me also of what I was 
engaged in forgetting that Shalford had an inn 
called the " Sea-Horse, " and a signboard of a sea- 
horse with a white head and a fish-like body 
covered in azure scales. He said it was a better 
sea-horse than those over the Admiralty gates in 
Whitehall. Continuing, he asked me why it was 
that the chief inn of a town was so frequently the 
" Swan." It was at Leatherhead. It was at 



GUILDFORD TO DUNBRIDGE. 127 

Charing in Kent I knew that. It was at a score 
of other places which I have forgotten. Nor could 
I remember a sufficient number of " Lions," 
" Eagles," and " Dolphins " to oppose him. Had 
I, was his next question, seen the " Ship " at 
Bishop's Button, which had a signboard with a 
steamer on one side and a sailing ship on the other ? 
And not long after this I was asleep. 



IV. 



FROM DUNBRIDGE OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 

DEFORE the first brightening of the light on 
*-* Sunday morning the rain ceased, and I 
returned to Dunbridge to pick up the road I had 
lost on Saturday evening. Above all, I wanted to 
ride along under Dean Hill, the level-ridged chalk 
hill dotted with yew that is seen running parallel 
to the railway a quarter of a mile on your left as 
you near Salisbury from Eastleigh. The sky was 
pale, scarcely more blue than the clouds with which 
it was here and there lightly whitewashed. For five 
miles I was riding against the stream of the river 
which rises near Clarendon and meets the Test 
near Dunbridge. The water and its alders, many of 
them prostrate, and its drab sedges mingled with 
intense green and with marsh-marigolds' yellow, 
were seldom more than a hundred yards away on 
my right. Pewits wheeled over it with creaking 
wings and protests against the existence of man. 

I did not stop for the villages. Butts Green, for 
example, where the Other Man had seen the fox 
weather-vane, began with an old thatched cottage 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 129 

and a big hollow yew, but the green itself was dull, 
flat, and bare, and the cottages round it newish. 
Lockerley Green, a mile farther on, was much like 
it, except that the road traversed instead of skirting 
the green. Between these two, and beyond Locker- 
ley Church, where the road touched the river and 
had a fork leading across to East Tytherley, there 
was a small, but not old, mill, and a miller too, 
and flour. As I looked back the small sharp spire 
of the church stuck up over the level ridgy plough- 
land in a manner which, I supposed, would have 
made for a religious person a very religious picture. 
No other building was visible. The railway on my 
left was more silent than the river on my right, 
among its willow and alder and tall, tufted grass, 
at the foot of gorse slopes. 

After crossing the railway half a mile past 
Lockerley Green the road went close to the base of 
Dean Hill, separated from it by plough land without 
a hedge. On the left, that is on the Dean Hill side, 
stood East Dean Church, a little rustic building of 
patched brick and plaster walls, mossy roof, and 
small lead-paned windows displaying the Easter 
decorations of moss and daffodils. It had a tiny 
bell turret at the west end, and a round window cut 
up into radiating panes like a geometrical spider's 
web. Under the yew tree, amidst long grass, 

7 



130 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

dandelion, and celandine, lay the bones of people 
bearing the names Edney and Langridge. The 
door was locked. Its neighbours on the other side of 
the road were an old cottage with tiled roof and 
walls of herring-boned brick, smothered from 
chimney to earth with ivy, in a garden of plum 
blossom ; and next to it, a decent, small home, 
a smooth clipped block of yew, and a whitewashed 
mud wall with a thatched coping. The other houses 
of East Dean, either thatched or roofed with orange 
tiles, were scattered chiefly on the right. 

Presently I had the willows of the river as near 
me on the right as the green slope, the chalk pit, 
the sheep-folds, and yew trees of Dean Hill on the 
left ; and the sun shone upon the water and began 
to slant down the hillside. The river was very 
clear and swift, the chalk of its bed very white, 
the hair of its waving weeds very dark green. 

West Dean, where I entered Wiltshire, a mile from 
East Dean, is a village with a " Red Lion " inn, 
a railway station, a sawmill and timber-yard, and 
several groups of houses clustering close to both 
banks of the river, which is crossed by a road-bridge 
and by a white footbridge below. I went over 
river and railway uphill past the new but ivied 
church to look at the old farm-house, the old 
church, and the camp, which lie back from the 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 131 

road on the left among oaks and thickets. On 
that Sunday morning cows pasturing on the rushy 
fields below the camp, and thrushes singing in the 
oaks, were the principal inhabitants of West Dean. 
I did not go farther in this direction, for the road 
went north to West Tytherley and the broad woods 
that lie east of it, the remnant of Buckholt Forest, 
but turned back and west, and then south-west 
again on my original road, in order to be on the 
road nearest to Dean Hill. This took me over 
broad and almost hedgeless fields, and through a 
short disconnected fragment of an avenue of mossy- 
rooted beeches, to West Dean Farm. Nothing lay 
between the houseless road and the hillside, which 
is thick here with yew, except the broad arable 
fields, with a square or two given up to mustard 
flowers and sheep, and West Dean Farm itself. It 
is a house of a dirty white colour amidst numerous 
and roomy outbuildings, thatched or mellow-tiled, 
set in a circle of tall beeches. The road bends round 
the farm group and goes straight to the foot of the 
hill, and then along it. I went slowly, looking up 
at the yews and thorns on the green wall of the hill, 
and its slanting green trackway, and the fir trees 
upon the ridge. Linnets twittered in companies 
or sang solitarily on thorn tips. Thrushes sang in 
the wayside yews. Larks rose and fell unceasingly. 



132 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

The sheep-bells tinkled in the mustard. Away from 
the hill the land sloped gradually in immense arable 
fields, and immense grass fields newly rolled into 
pale green stripes, down to the river, and there rose 
again up to Hound Wood and Bentley Wood, where 
a white house shone pale in the north-east, four or 
five miles off. 

For nearly two miles the road had not had a house 
upon it, and nothing separated me from the hill, 
the yew trees, and the brier and hawthorn thickets. 
In fact, West Dean Farm was the only house 
served by the three miles of road between West 
Dean and West Grimstead. Yet this did not save 
a chalk pit close to the road from being used as a 
receptacle for rubbish. Having reached the farm 
and the foot of the hill the road began to turn away 
again towards the river and to West Grimstead. 
It was a loose, flinty road, so that I had another 
reason for walking instead of riding. The larks 
that sang over me could not have wished for better 
dust baths than this road would make them, for 
the sun was gaining. It was almost a treeless road 
until I was close to West Grimstead, where there 
was an oak wood on the right, streaked with the 
silver of birch stems and tipped with the yellow 
flames of larches. The village consisted of a 
church, an inn called the " Spring Cottage," and 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 133 

many thatched cottages scattered along several 
by-roads on either side. It ended in an old thatched 
cottage with outbuildings, at the verge of a deep 
sand pit full of sand-martins' holes. When I had 
passed it I stopped at a gate and looked at the orange 
pit wall on the far side, the cottage above the wall, 
and the elm between the road and the pit. A 
thrush and several larks were singing, and through 
their songs I heard a thin voice that I had not heard 
for six months, very faint yet unmistakable, 
though I could not at once see the bird a sand- 
martin. I recognized the sound, as I always recog- 
nize at their first autumnal ascent above the 
horizon the dim small cluster of the Pleiades on a 
September evening. On such a morning one sand- 
martin seems enough to make a summer, and here 
were six, flitting in narrow circles like butterflies 
with birds' voices. 

I went on and found myself in a flat land of oak 
woods and of fields that were half molehills and half 
rushes, and the hedge banks had gorse in blossom. 
It was here that I joined the Southampton and 
Salisbury road, a yellow road between the gorsy, 
rolling fragments of Whaddon Common, which 
came to an end at a plantation of pines on and 
about some mounds like tumuli on the right hand. 

Uphill to Alderbury I walked, looking back 



134 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 



south-eastward along the four-mile wall of Dean 
Hill which I had quitted a mile behind. Alderbury, 
its " Green Dragon," its public seat and foursquare 
fountain of good water for man and beast (erected 
by Jacob, sixth Earl of Radnor), is on a hilltop over- 
looking the Avon, and immediately on leaving it I 
began to descend and to slant nearer and nearer the 
river. The hedges of the road guided my eyes 
straight to the cathedral spire of Salisbury, two 
or three miles off beneath me. On the right the 
sward and oaks of Ivychurch came down to the road : 
below on the left the sward was wider, the oaks 
were fewer, and many cows were feeding. A long 
cleft of rushy turf and oaks, then a broad ploughland 
succeeded the Ivychurch oaks, and the ploughland 
rose up into a round summit crested by a clump of 
pines and beeches. I remember seeing this field 
when it was being ploughed by two horses, and the 
ploughman's white dog was exploring on one side 
or another across the slopes. 

Over beyond the river the land swelled up into 
chalk hills, here smooth and green, with a clump on 
the ridge, and there wooded. The railway was now 
approaching the road from the right, and the 
narrow strip between road and railway was occupied 
by an old orchard and a large green chestnut tree. 
In the branches of the chestnut sang a chaffinch, 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 135 

while a boy was trimming swedes underneath. I 
was now at the suburban edge of Salisbury, the 
villas looking out of their trees and lemon- coloured 
barberry at the double stream of Avon, at the 
willowy marshland, the cathedral, and the Harn- 
ham Down racecourse above. 

I crossed over Harnham bridge where the tiled 
roofs are so mossy, and went up under that bank 
of sombre-shimmering ivy just to look from where 
the roads branch to Downston, Blandford, and 
Odstock. Southward nothing is to be seen except 
the workhouse and the many miles of bare down 
and sheepf olds. Northward the cathedral spire soars 
out of a city without a hill, dominated on the right 
or east by Burroughs Hill, a low but decided bluff, 
behind which are the broad woods of Clarendon. 
The road was deserted. It was on a Tuesday 
evening, after market, that I had last been there, 
when clergy with wives and daughters were cycling 
out past a wagon for Downton drawn by horses 
with red and blue plumelets ; motor cyclists were 
tearing in ; a tramp or two trudged down towards 
the bridge. In the city itself the cattle were being 
driven to the slaughter-house or out to the country, 
a spotted calf was prancing on the pavement, one 
was departing for Wilton in a crowded motor bus, 
a wet, new-born one stood in a cart with its mother, 



136 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

a cow with udders wagging was being hustled up the 
Exeter road by motor cars and pursued at a distance 
by a man who called to it affectionately as a last 
resource ; another calf was being held outside a 
pub. while the farmer drank ; black and white pigs 
were steered cautiously past plate glass ; and in the 
market-place Sidney Herbert and Henry Fawcett 
on their pedestals were looking out over the dark, 
wet square at the last drovers and men in gaiters 
leaving it, and ordinary passengers crossing it, and 
a few sheep still bleating in a pen. And the green 
river meadows and their elms and willows chilled 
and darkened as the gold sun sank without staining 
the high, pale- washed sky, and the cathedral clock 
nervously and quietly said, " One-two, one-two, 
one-two " for the third quarter before dark. 

But this was Sunday morning, and still early. I 
ate breakfast to the tune of the " Marseillaise," 
sung slowly and softly to a child as a lullaby, 
and was soon out again, this time amidst jack- 
daws, rooks, clergy, and the black-dressed Sunday 
procession, diversified by women in violet, green, 
and curry colour. The streets, being shuttered and 
curtained, robbed of the crowd shopping, were cold 
and naked ; even the inns of Salisbury, whose 
names are so genial and succulent " Haunch of 
Venison," "Round of Beef," "Ox," "Royal 






OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 137 

George," "Roebuck," "Wool Pack "were as 
near as possible dismal. Their names were as 
meaningless as those of the dead Browns, Dowdings, 
Burtons, Burdens, and Fullfords in St. Edmund's 
Churchyard. If it had not been for the women it 
would have been a city of the dead or a city of 
birds. The people kept to the paths of the close. 
The lawns and trees were given over exclusively 
to the birds, especially those that are black, such 
as the rook and blackbird. Those that were not 
matrimonially engaged on the grass were cawing 
in the elms, beeches, and chestnuts of the cathe- 
dral. Missel-thrushes were singing across the close 
as if it had been empty. A lark from the fields 
without drifted singing over the city. The stock- 
doves cooed among the carved saints. There were 
more birds than men in Salisbury. Never had I 
seen the cathedral more beautiful. The simple 
form of the whole must have been struck out of 
glaucous rock at one divine stroke. If seemed to 
belong to the birds that flew about it and lodged 
so naturally in the high places. The men who 
crawled in at the doors, as into mines, could not 
be the masters of such a vision. 

Nevertheless, I took the liberty of entering my- 
self, chiefly to look again for those figures of Death 
and a Traveller, where the Traveller says, 



138 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

" Alas, Death, alas, a blissful thing that were 
If thou wouldst spare us in our lustiness 
And come to wretches that be so of heavy cheer." . . . 

and Death retorts, < 

" Graceless gallant, in all thy lust and pride, 
Kemember that thou shalt give due. 
Death shall from thy body thy soul divide. 
Thou must not him escape certainly. 
To the dead bodies cast down thine eye, 
Behold them well, consider and see, 
For such as they are such shalt thou be." 

There is little more to be said about death than 
is said here. But I could not find the words, 
though I went up and down those streets of knights', 
ladies', and doctors' tombs, and saw again old 
Eleonor Sadler, grim, black, and religious, kneel- 
ing at her book in a niche since 1622, and looking 
as if she could have been the devil to those who 
did not do likewise. I saw, too, the tablet of Henry 
Hele, who practised medicine felicitously and hon- 
ourably, for fifty years, in the close and in the 
city ; and the green lady with the draped harp 
mourning over Thomas, Baron Wyndham, Lord 
High Steward of Ireland (1681-1745), and the bust 
of Richard Jefferies, 

" Who, observing the works of Almighty God 
With a poet's eye, | Has | 
enriched the literature of his country, | and | 
won for himself a place amongst | those | 
who have made men happier, [ and wiser." 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 139 

If Jefferies had to be commemorated in a cathe- 
dral, it was unnecessary to drag in Almighty God. 
Perhaps the commemorator hoped thus to cast a 
halo over the man and his books ; but I think 
" The Story of my Heart " and " Hours of Spring " 
will be proof against the holy water of these feeble 
and ill divided words. 

Outside the city I had the road to Wilton, a 
road lined on both sides by elms, almost to myself. 
The rooks cawed in their nests in the elms, and the 
eight bells of Bemerton called to worshippers from 
among the trees, a field's-breadth distant on the 
left. I was not tempted by the bells, yet this was 
one of those Sundays that help us to see beauty and 
a sort of sense in the lines of George Herbert, vicar 

of Bemerton, 

" Sundays the pillars are 
On which heav'ns palace arched lies : 
The other days fill up the spare 
And hollow room with vanities. 
They are the fruitful beds and borders 
In God's rich garden : that is bare 

Which parts their ranks and orders. 

The Sundays of man's life, 
Threaded together on time's string, 
Make bracelets to adorn the wife 
Of the eternal, glorious King. 
On Sundays heaven's gate stands ope ; 
Blessings are plentiful and rife, 

More plentiful than hope." 



140 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Izaak Walton says that on the Sunday before his 
death Herbert rose up suddenly from his bed, 
called for one of his instruments, tuned it, and sang 
this verse : " Thus he sung on earth such hymns 
and anthems as the angels and he ... now sing 
in Heaven." The bells, the sunshine after storm, 
the elm trees, and the memory of that pious poet, 
put me into what was perhaps an unconscious 
imitation of a religious humour. And in that 
humour, repeating the verses with a not wholly 
sham unction, I rode away from Bemerton. 
The Other Man, however, overtook me, and upset 
the humour. For he repeated in his turn, with 
unction exaggerated to an incredibly ridiculous 
degree, the sonnet on Sin which comes next to 
that on Nature in Herbert's " Temple," 

" Lord, with what care hast thou begirt us round. 
Parents first season us : then schoolmasters 
Deliver us to laws ; they send us bound 
To rules of reason, holy messengers, 
Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow dogging sin, 
Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes, 
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in, 
Bibles laid open, millions of surprises, 
Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness, 
The sound of glory ringing in our ears : 
Without, our shame ; within, our consciences ; 
Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears. 
Yet all these fences and their whole array 
One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away." 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 141 

At the conclusion of this, without pause or change 
of tone, he continued : " From Parents, School- 
masters, and Parsons, from Sundays and Bibles, 
from the Sound of Glory ringing in our ears, from 
Shame and Conscience, from Angels, Grace, and 
Eternal Hopes and Fears, Good Lord, or whatever 
Gods there be, deliver us." This so elated him 
that he rode on at a great pace, and I lost him. 
For I dismounted at Fugglestone St. Peter, a very 
small, short-spired church with its churchyard, 
huddled into a narrow wayside patch. Church and 
churchyard are usually locked, so that you must 
get over the wall, if you wish to walk about on 
the shaven turf amongst ivy and periwinkle and 
the headstones of the Wiltshires, Bennetts, Lakes, 
Tabors, and Hollys, and to see middle-aged George 
Williams's uncomfortable words (in 1842), 

" Dangers stand thick through all the ground 
To push us to the tomb, 
And fierce diseases wait around 
To hurry mortals home." 

and J. Harris's double-edged epitaph (1793), 

" How strangely fond of life poor mortals be, 
How few that see our beds would change with we. 
But, serious reader, tell me which is best, 
The painful journey or the traveller's rest ? " 

Harris was trying to imagine what it would be 
like, lying there in Fugglestone Churchyard, and 



142 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

having the laugh of people who were still perpen- 
dicular ; but, of course, it is most likely that 
Harris never wrote it. 

I did not go into Wilton, but kept on steadily 
alongside the Wylye. For three miles I had on 
my left hand the river and its meadows, poplars, 
willows, and elms the railway raised slightly 
above the farther bank and the waved green wall 
of down beyond, to the edge of which came the 
dark trees of Grovely. It was such another scene 
as the Wey and the natural terrace west of Farn- 
ham. The road was heavy and wet, being hardly 
above the river level, but that was all the better 
for seeing the maidenhair lacework of the greening 
willows, the cattle among the marsh-marigolds of the 
flat green meadows, the moorhen hurried down the 
swift water, the bulging wagons of straw going 
up a deep lane to the sheepfolds, and the gradual 
slope of the Plain where those sheepfolds were, on 
my right. This edge of the Plain above the Wylye 
is a beautiful low downland, cloven by coombs and 
topped by beech clumps ; and where it was arable 
the flints washed by last night's rain were shining 
in the sun. A few motor cyclists, determined men, 
passed me at twenty miles an hour through South 
Newton. Larks sang high, and hedge- sparrows 
sang low. 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 143 

This was a great hare country, as I knew by two 
tokens. When I had last come to South Newton 
a band of shooters, retrievers, and beaters was 
breaking up. A trap weighted with two ordinary 
men and a polished, crimson-faced god of enormous 
size drove off. Lord Pembroke's cart followed, 
full of dead hares. . . . Some years before that I 
was on Crouch's Down, on the other side of Grovely 
Wood, enjoying the green road which runs between 
the ridge and the modern highroad. It was open 
land, with some arable below, the Grovely oaks 
and their nightingales above, and the spire of Salis- 
bury far off before me. Out of a warm, soft sky 
descended a light whisking rain, and on the Down 
seven hares were playing follow-my-leader at full 
speed. All seven ran in a bunch round and round, 
sometimes encircling a grass tussock in rings so 
very small at times that only they knew which was 
leader. Suddenly one leaped out of this ring, and 
all pursued him in a long, open string like hounds. 
Several times this happened. For twenty, fifty, 
or a hundred yards they ran straight ; then they 
turned suddenly back almost on their own traces, 
in the same open order, until their fancy preferred 
circles or zigzags. Again they set off on a long 
race towards a hillside beech clump, going down a 
cleft above Baverstock. They made a dozen sharp 



144 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

turns in the cleft, always at full speed. Maintain- 
ing the same long drawn out line, they next made 
for the woods above. In this long run the line 
opened out still more, but no one gave up. They 
entered the woods, to reappear immediately one at 
a time, and took once more to encircling a tussock. 
As they were usually two hundred yards away on 
downland of nearly their own colour, I could not be 
sure how often they changed their leader, but I 
think they did at least once in mid-career. They 
were as swift and happy as birds, and made the 
earth seem like the air. . . . 

South Newton church, smithy, " Bell " inn, and 
cottages is built mostly on the right side of the 
road, away from the river and its willows, which 
are but a few yards off. The church, of flint and 
stone chequer, stands a little back, the tower nearest 
the road, on a gentle slope of flame- shaped yews 
and the tombs of many Blakes. Again the road 
touched the river, and I looked over it to Great 
Wishford, its cottages and hayricks clustering about 
the church tower, with flag flying, and to a deep 
recess in the Down behind. The village has a street 
full of different, pretty houses, mostly built of 
chipped flint alternating with stone, in squares, or 
bands, or anyhow. 

From Wishford onward the river has a good 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 145 

road on either side, each with a string of villages, 
one or two miles apart. The " Swan " and an 
orange- coloured plain small house with grass and 
a great cedar stand at the turning which leads over 
the river to Great Wishford and the right bank. I 
kept to the left bank, because I was about to leave 
the Wylye and go north up its tributary Winter- 
bourne. From the " Swan " I began to climb up 
above the river, and had a steep meadow and the 
farm-yard and elm trees of Little Wishford between 
it and me, but on my right a steep bank of elms 
which had less for the eye than the farther side of 
the river, its clean wall of down, terraced below, 
and the trees of Grovely peeping over. Ahead I 
could see more and more of the long, broad vale 
of the Wylye and its willows contained within 
slopes, half of pasture, half arable ; and above all, 
the curves of the Plain flowing into and across one 
another. The earth was hazy, the sky clouded, and 
no one who had ridden on that Good Friday and 
bad Saturday could have expected a fine day with 
any confidence. 

Had I been walking, I should have turned off this 
road between the " Swan " and Little Wishford, 
on to the Plain, and so by a green road that goes 
high across it as far as Shrewton. But I now kept 

on until the road had risen, so as to touch the edge 

10 



146 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

of the Plain, the arable land, the home of pewits. 
Here I had below me the meeting of the Wylye 
and Winterbourne, the thatched roofs of Stapleford 
scattered round it, and the road going on westward 
with telegraph posts along the sparse, willowy vale. 
I turned out of this vale at Stapleford. It is a 
village of many crossing roads and lanes, of houses 
of flint and stone chequer, in groups or isolated, 
under its elms and high grassy banks. The church 
is kept open, a clean, greenish place with Norman 
arches on one side, and a window illuminated by a 
coat of arms a phoenix on a crown and the 
words, " Foy pour devoir." There are no other in- 
scriptions. Outside I noticed the names of Good- 
fellow, Pavie, Barnett, Brown, Rowden, Gamlen, 
Leversuch. The lettering survived on the head- 
stone of John Saph, who died in 1683, and his wife, 
Alice, who died in 1677. 

I dipped to a withy bed, and went upstream along 
the Winterbourne to Berwick St. James, and as the 
village lies on the right bank my road took a right- 
angled turn by a chalk pit to cross the bridge, and 
another to keep its course. At first sight Berwick 
St. James offered an excellent dense group of cot- 
tages and farm buildings by the river, new and old 
thatched roofs, and walls of flint or of black boarding. 
The church tower peered up on the right, with a mill 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 147 

bestriding the stream : on the left a white house 
and blossoming fruit trees stood somewhat apart 
in their enclosure of white mud wall. The sky over 
all was dim, the thin white clouds showing the blue 
behind them. The street ending in the " Boot " 
inn was a perfect neat one of flint and stone chequer 
and thatch. The church is kept locked. It was open 
at that moment, but occupied. Its broad tower, 
which is at the road end, is almost as broad as itself. 
It has a gray, weedy churchyard, far too large for 
the few big ivy-covered box tombs lying about in 
it like unclaimed luggage on a railway platform. 

The Winterbourne guides you through the heart 
of the Plain. It has, I believe, no very strict 
boundaries, but the Plain may be said to consist 
of all that mass of downland in South Wiltshire, 
which is broken only by the comparatively narrow 
valleys of five rivers the Bourn, the Avon, the 
Wylye, the Nadder, and the Ebble. Three of these 
valleys, however, those of the Bourn on the east, 
and of the Wylye and the Nadder on the south, 
have railways in them as well as rivers. The rail- 
ways are more serious interruptions to the char- 
acter of the Plain, and whether or not they must 
be regarded as the boundaries of a reduced Plain, 
certainly the core of the Plain excludes them. 
Even so it has to admit the Amesbury and Mili- 



148 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

tary Camp Light Railway, cutting across from the 
Bourn to the Avon, and there ceasing. Within 
this reduced space of fifteen by twenty miles the 
Plain is nothing but the Plain. As for the military 
camps, nothing may be seen of them for days 
beyond the white tents gleaming in the sun like 
sheep or clouds. When they are out of sight the 
tumuli and ancient earthworks that abound bring 
to mind more forcibly than anywhere else the fact 
that, as the poet says, " the dead are more numerous 
than the living." 

The valleys are rivers not only of waters, but of 
greenest grass and foliage. The greatest part of 
the Plain is all treeless pasture, treeless arable land. 
Some high places, as at meetings of roads, possess 
beeches or fir trees in line or cluster. Where the 
ground falls too steeply for cultivation a copse 
has been formed a copse in one case, between 
Shrewton and Tilshead, of beautiful contour, fol- 
lowing the steep wall of chalk for a quarter of a mile 
in a crescent curve, with level green at its foot, 
the high Down rising bare above it. A space here 
and there has been left to thorns and gorse bushes. 
In several places, as at Asserton Farm above Berwick 
St. James, plantations have been made in mathe- 
matical forms. But as you travel across the Plain 
you come rarely to a spot where the chief thing 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 149 

for the eye is not; an immense expanse of the colour 
of ploughed chalkland, or of corn, or of turf, vary- 
ing according to season and weather, and always 
diversified by parallelograms of mustard yellow. 
Sometimes this expanse rolls but little before it 
touches the horizon ; far more often, it heaves 
or billows up boldly into several long curving ridges 
that intersect or flow into one another. The 
highest of these may be crowned by dark beeches 
or carved by the ditch and rampart of an ancient 
camp. Hedges are few, even by the roads. The 
roads are among the noblest, visiting the rivers and 
their orchards and thatched villages, but keeping 
for the main part of their length high and dry and 
in long curves. They are travelled by an occa- 
sional (but not sufficiently occasional) motor car, 
or by a homeward going farm-roller with children 
riding the horses. 

Next to the dead the most numerous things on 
the Plain are sheep, rooks, pewits, and larks. To- 
day they mingle their voices, but the lark is the 
most constant. Here, more than elsewhere, he 
rises up above an earth only less free than the 
heavens. The pewit is equally characteristic. His 
Winter and twilight cry expresses for most men both 
the sadness and the wildness of these solitudes. 
When his Spring cry breaks every now and then, 



150 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

as it does to-day, through the songs of the larks, 
when the rooks caw in low flight or perched on their 
elm tops, and the lambs bleat, and the sun shines, 
and the couch fires burn well, and the wind blows 
their smoke about, the Plain is genial, and the un- 
kindly breadth and simplicity of the scene in Winter 
or in the drought of Summer are forgotten. But 
let the rain fall and the wind whirl it, or let the sun 
shine too mightily, the Plain assumes the char- 
acter by which it is best known, that of a sublime, 
inhospitable wilderness. It makes us feel the age 
of the earth, the greatness of Time, Space, and 
Nature ; the littleness of man even in an aeroplane, 
the fact that the earth does not belong to man, but 
man to the earth. And this feeling, or some variety 
of it, for most men is accompanied by melancholy, 
or is held to be the same thing. This is perhaps 
particularly so with townsmen, and above all with 
writers, because melancholy is the mood most easily 
given an appearance of profundity, and, therefore, 
most easily impressive. 

The Plain has not attracted many writers, though 
in the last few years have appeared Miss Ella Noyes's 
careful collection of notes and observations, and 
Mr. W. H. Hudson's "Shepherd's Life," the best 
book on the Plain, one of the best of all country 
books, and one that lacks all trace of writer's 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 151 

melancholy. John Aubrey wrote one or two of his 
casual immortal pages on it. Drayton called it the 
first of Plains, and gave some reasons for it in his 
great poem on this renowned isle of Great Britain. 
Hundreds of archaeologists have linked themselves 
to it in libraries. But the most famous book in 
some way connected with it is Sir Philip Sidney's 
"Arcadia." Perhaps this is one of those famous 
books which are never buried because the funeral 
expenses would be too large, though much still remains 
to be done before we shall know, as we should like 
to know, why and how " Arcadia " and similar books 
appealed to the men and women of England from 
1590 to 1630, during which ten editions were called 
for ; what kind of truth and beauty they saw in it ; 
what part of their humanity was moved by it ; 
whether they detected the influence of Wilton and 
Salisbury Plain. . . . 

Our own attitude towards it is not so hard to 
explain. That it is called " Arcadia " and is by 
Sidney is something, and in these days of docile 
antiquarian taste it may be enough for the few 
or many who read it first in the most recent edi- 
tion, the third issued during the last century and 
a half. I doubt whether even these will do more 
than dream and doze and wake, lazily turning 
over page after page nearly seven hundred pages 



152 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

of painfully small type without ever making out 
the plot, often forgetting who is the speaker, where 
the scene, only for the sake of the most famous 
passage of all, 

" There were hills which garnished their proud 
heights with stately trees ; humble valleys whose 
base estate seemed comforted with the refreshing of 
silver rivers ; meadows enamelled with all sorts of 
eye -pleasing flowers ; thickets which, being lined 
with most pleasant shade, were witnessed so too 
by the cheerful disposition of many well-tuned 
birds ; each pasture stored with sheep feeding with 
sober security, while the pretty lambs with bleat- 
ing oratory craved the dams' comfort ; here a 
shepherd's boy piping, as though he never should 
be old ; there a young shepherdess knitting, and 
withal singing, and it seemed that her voice com- 
forted her hands to work, and her hands kept 
time to her voice-music." . . . 

(A charming companion to this first view of Ar- 
cadia is where FitzGerald speaks of the home- 
brewed at Yardley, in the days before " he knew 
he was to die.") For a page or two the least 
learned of us can enjoy the ghostly rustle of these 
vaporous, eloquent forms that never were alive, yet 
once gave joy to men who were friends of Shake- 
speare and Drake ; the phantoms of their felicity 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 153 

in gardens and fair women. Then the beauty of 
visible things, of dress, for example, abounds and is 
very real, especially Pyrocles' dress in his Amazon's 
disguise the hair arrayed in " careless care " under 
a coronet of pearl and gold and feathers, the doub- 
let " of sky-coloured satin, with plates of gold, and, 
as it were, nailed with precious stones." The 
princeliness of the Arcadians' manners and morals 
may seem to reflect Sidney's self " divinely mild, 
a spirit without spot." There are thoughts, too, 
beyond such as the convention demanded, as when 
Pyrocles says, 

" I am not yet come to that degree of wisdom 
to think light of the sex of whom I have my life, 
since if I be anything, which your friendship rather 
finds than I acknowledge, I was, to come to it, born 
of a woman, nursed of a woman. . . . Truly we men, 
and praisers of men, should remember that if we 
have such excellences it is reasonable to think 
them excellent creatures, of whom we are since a 
kite never brought forth a good flying hawk." 
And some of the situations, conventional enough, 
only the weary or those that never loved can pass 
unsaluted ; such as Amphialus' too felicitous court- 
ship of Queen Helen on behalf of his foster-brother, 
Philoxenos. The conceits, too, do not tower so 
often, so bravely, so rashly, into the cloudy alti- 



154 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

tudes without meeting what would not have been 
found at home : as in Kalander's hunting, 

" The wood seemed to conspire with them against 
his own citizens [that is, the stags], dispersing their 
noise through all his quarters, and even the nymph 
left to bewail the loss of Narcissus and became a 
hunter." 

The nymphs themselves, enchanted by the 
pleasant ways of the pastoral, are sometimes 
lured out of their fastnesses to bless it with a 
touch of eternal Nature or of true rusticity, as in the 
Eclogue in the third book : " The first strawberries 
he could find, were ever in a clean washed dish 
sent to Kala; thus posies of the spring flowers 
were wrapped up in a little green silk, and dedi- 
cated to Kala's breasts; thus sometimes his 
sweetest cream, sometimes the best cake-bread 
his mother made, were reserved for Kala's taste. 
Neither would he stick to kill a lamb when she 
would be content to come over the way unto 
him." 

Delightful, too, is the use of experience when it 
is said of Pyrocles that his mind was " all this while 
so fixed upon another devotion, that he no more 
attentively marked his friend's discourse than the 
child that hath leave to play marks the last part 
of his lesson." 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 155 

This has nothing to do with the Plain. We 
know, indeed, that Sidney wrote it below there at 
Wilton, in his sister, the Countess of Pembroke's 
house. But what has " Arcadia " to do with 
Wilton, save that it was written there ? There, 
says Aubrey, the Muses appeared to Sidney, and 
he wrote down their dictates in a book, even 
though on horseback. " These romancy plaines 
and boscages did no doubt," says he, a Wiltshire 
man, " conduce to the heightening of Sir Philip 
Sidney's phansie." It cannot be said that they 
did more, that they reflected themselves in the 
broad, meandering current of the " Arcadia." At 
most, perhaps, after heightening the poet's fancy, 
they offered no impediments to it. If Salisbury 
Plain was not Arcadia, it contained the elements of 
Arcadia and a solitude in which they could be 
mingled at liberty. Every one must wish for a 
larger leaven of passages like that one where he 
compares Pyrocles to the impatient schoolboy, for 
something to show us what he and the countess said 
and did at Wilton, and what the Plain was like, 
three hundred years ago, when the book was being 
written. Even so it is a better preparation for 
Salisbury Plain than it would be for Sedgemoor or 
Land's End ; but I shall not labour the point 
since I had seen the Plain before I had read the 



156 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

book, and Berwick St. James is as little affected by 
" Arcadia " as " Arcadia " by Berwick St. James. 

As soon as my road was outside Berwick St. 
James it mounted above the river and was abso- 
lutely clear of houses, hedges, and fences for a 
mile, and showed me nothing more than the bare 
and the green arable land flowing away on every 
side in curves like flight, and compact masses of 
beeches on certain ridges, like manes or combs. 
At the end of the mile my northward road ran 
into a westward road from Amesbury, turned sharp 
along it for a hundred yards or so, and then out 
of it sharp to the left and north again, thus seeing 
nothing of the village of Winterbourne Stoke but 
a group of sycamores and a thatched white mud 
wall round which it twisted. Out and up the road 
took me again to the high arable without a hedge, 
and the music of larks, and the mingling sounds of 
pewits and sheep-bells. Before me scurried par- 
tridges, scarce willing to give up their love-making 
in the sunlit and sun-warmed dust. Looking over 
my shoulder I saw two hills striped with corn, 
and one of them crested with beeches, curve up 
apart from one another, so as to frame in the 
angle thus made between them the bare flank of 
Berwick Down and the outline of Yarnbury Castle 
ramparts upon the bare ridge of it. Very far 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 157 

northward hung the dark-wooded inland promon- 
tory of Martinsell, near Savernake, and in the east 
the Quarley and Figsbury range, their bony humps 
just tipped with dark trees. 

The next village was five villages in one Rolle- 
stone, Maddington, Shrewton, Orcheston St. George, 
and Orcheston St. Mary. Here many roads from 
the high land descended to the river and crossed 
mine. The cluster of villages begins with orchard 
and ends in a field where the grass is said to grow 
twelve feet high. After passing over the Winter- 
bourne and running along under its willows to 
Shrewton's little domed dungeon of blackened stone, 
and an inn that stands sideways to the road, with 
the sign of a Catherine-wheel, the road again 
bridges the river from waterside Shrewton to 
waterside Maddington. But I kept along the 
Shrewton bank on a by-road. The stream here 
flows as clear as glass over its tins and crockery, 
between roadside willows and a white mud wall, 
and I followed it round past the flint-towered 
church and the " Plume of Feathers " and its pair 
of peacock yews. I was looking for Orcheston St. 
Mary. One sunny February day, when the fields 
by the road hither from Tilshead were flooded with 
pools and channels of green, peacock blue, and purple 
by the Winterbourne, I had seen below me among 



158 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

the loops of the water a tiny low-towered church 
with roof stained orange, and a white wall curving 
and long, and a protective group of elms, which was 
Orcheston St. Mary. I continued along the stream 
and its banks of parsley and celandine, its troop of 
willows, beeches, and elms, but found myself at 
Orcheston St. George. A cottage near the church 
bore upon its wall these words, cut in stone, before 
Queen Victoria's time, 

" Fear God 
Honour the King 
Do good to all men." 

Probably it dates from about the year of Alton 
Workhouse, from the times when kites and ravens 
abounded, and thrived on the corpses of men who 
were hanged for a little theft committed out of 
necessity or love of sport. The fear of God must 
have been a mighty thing to bring forth such 
laws and still more the obedience to them. And 
yet, thanks to our capacity for seeing the past and 
the remote in rose-colour, that age frequently 
appears as at least a silver age ; perhaps even our 
own will appear German silver. I confess I did 
not think about the lad who was hanged for a hare 
when I caught sight of the church at Orcheston 
St. George, but rather of some imaginary, blissful 
time which at least lacked our tortures, our great 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 159 

men, our shame and conscience. It is a flint 
church with an ivied tower standing on terms 
of equality among thatched farm buildings and 
elms. The church was stifling, for a stove roared 
among dead daffodils and moss and the bodies of 
Ambrose Paradice, gent, dead since 1727, and Joan 
his wife, and the mere tablet of John Shettler 
of Elston, who died at Harnham (" from the effects 
of an accident ") on December 6, 1861, when he 
was fifty-two, and went to Hazelbury Brian in 
Dorset to be buried. Outside, the sun was almost as 
warm on the daisies and on the tombstone of Job 
Gibbs, who died in 1817 at the age of sixty -four, 
and proclaimed, or the sexton did for him, 

" Ye living men the Tomb survey 
Where you must quickly dwell. 
Mark how the awful summons sounds 
In ev'ry funeral knell. 
Give joy or sorrow, care or pain, 
Take life and friends away, 
But let me find them all again 
In that eternal day." 

Close by, Ann Farr from Shropshire, a servant 
for fifty years at the Rectory, had a tablet between 
her and oblivion. 

From Orcheston St. George the road advances 
three miles with hardly a hedge. On the right 
rose and spread broad pastures mainly, on the left 



160 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

arable lands, new ploughed, or green with young 
corn, or cut up into squares of swedes or mustard 
for the long-horned sheep. There was no flooded 
river now to shine in the sun. Clouds began to 
thicken over the sky. The dust whirled. The 
straw caught in the hawthorns fluttered. A motor 
car raced by me. Therefore I did not get off my 
bicycle to visit that crescent beech and fir wood 
against a concavity of the chalk upon my right. A 
farm road curves past it, the wood hanging above it 
as beautifully as if above a river. I hoped to reach 
Tilshead before it rained, or, better still, the elms 
and farm buildings at Joan-a-Gore's at the crossing 
of the Ridge Way. Tilshead's trees lay visible be- 
fore me for a mile or more. Its street of cottages 
and houses that are more than cottages I entered 
before the rain. I even stopped at the church 
a flint and stone one to see the tower and 
the churchyard, and its white mud wall, and the 
chestnut tree, and the ash that weeps over the box 
tombs of people named Wilkins and Parham, and 
the graves of the Husseys and Laweses, and that 
boast of William Cowper the schoolmaster in 1804, 

" When the Archangel's trump shall sound, 
And slumbering mortals bid to rise, 
I shall again my form assume 
To meet my Saviour in the skies." 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 161 

A man was just stepping out of a motor car into 
the " Black Horse," carrying a scarlet-hooded 
falcon upon his wrist ; but I did not stop here, nor 
at the " Rose and Crown," or the " Bell." 

On leaving Tilshead, as on leaving Berwick St. 
James, Winterbourne Stoke, and Orcheston, I was 
free of houses ; and of the few that lay in the 
hollows of the Plain only one was visible a small 
one on my right a quarter of a mile away among 
ricks and elm trees until I came to Joan-a- 
Gore's. It is a hedgeless road, with more or less 
wide margins of rough grass, along which pro- 
ceed two lines of poplars, some dead, some 
newly planted, all unprosperous and resembling 
the sails of windmills. A league of ploughland on 
either hand was broken only by a clump or two 
on the high ridges and a rick on the lower. As it 
was Sunday no white and black teams were cross- 
ing these spaces, sowing or scarifying. The rooks 
of Joan-a-Gore's flew back and forth, ignorant of 
the falconer ; the pewit brandished himself in the 
air ; the lark sang continually ; on one of the dead 
poplars a corn bunting delivered his unvaried song, 
as if a handful of small pebbles dropped in a chain 
dispiritedly. Nobody was on the road, it being then 
two o'clrck, except a young soldier going to meet a 

girl. The rain came, but was gone again before 

11 



162 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

I reached Joan-a-Gore's. The farm-house, the spa- 
cious farm-yard and group of irregular, shadowy, 
thatched buildings, and the surrounding rookery 
elms, all on a gently- sloping ground next to the 
road this is the finest modern thing on the Plain. 
The farm itself is but a small, slated house, gray- 
white in colour, with a porch and five front win- 
dows, half hid among elm trees ; but the whole 
group probably resembles a Saxon chief's home- 
stead. The trees make a nearly continuous copse 
with the elms and ashes that stand around and 
above the thatched cart lodges and combined sheds 
and cottages at Joan-a-Gore's Cross. No hedge, 
wall, or fence divides this group from my road or 
from the Ridge Way crossing it, and I turned into 
one of the doorless cart lodges to eat. I sat on a 
wagon shaft, looking out north over the Ridge 
Way and the north edge of the Plain. Where it 
passed the cart lodge the Ridge Way was a dusty 
farm track ; but on the other side of the crossing 
it was a fair road, leading past a new farm group 
towards Imber. Chickens pecked round me in the 
road dust and within the shed. Sparrows chattered 
in the thatch. The bells of sheep folded in neigh- 
bouring root fields tinkled. In the rookery the 
rooks cawed, and nothing intimated that the falcon 
had killed one. The young soldier had met his 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 163 

girl, and was walking back with her hand in his. 
The heavy dark sagging clouds let out some rain 
without silencing the larks. As the sun came out 
again a trapful of friends of the cottagers drove up. 
The trap was drawn up alongside of me with a few 
stares : the women went in ; the men put away the 
horse and strolled about. Well, I could not rest 
here when I had finished eating. Perhaps Sunday 
had tainted the solitude and quiet; I know not. 
So I mounted and rode on north-westward. 

The road was beginning to descend off the Plain. 
The poplars having come to an end, elms lined it on 
both sides. When the descent steepened the road- 
side banks became high and covered in arum, parsley, 
nettle, and ground ivy, and sometimes elder and 
ivy. No hedgerow on the left hid the great waves 
of the Plain towards Imber, and the fascinating 
hollow of the Warren close at hand. The slabby 
ploughland sinks away to a sharp-cut, flat-bottomed 
hollow of an oblong tendency, enclosed by half- 
wooded, green terraced banks all round except at 
the entrance, which is towards the road. This is 
the Warren, a most pleasant thing to see, a natural 
theatre unconsciously improved by human work, 
but impossible to imitate entirely by art, and all 
the better for being empty. 

Nearing the foot of the descent the road on the 



164 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

left is blinded by a fence, so that I could hardly 
see the deep wooded cleave parallel to me, and 
could only hear the little river running down it 
to Lavington. Very clear and thin and bright 
went this water over the white and dark stones 
by the wayside, as I came down to the forge at 
West Lavington and the " Bridge " inn. West 
Lavington is a street of about two miles of cot- 
tages, a timber-yard, inns, a great house, a church, 
and gardens, with interruptions from fields. Ah 1 
Saints' Church stands upon a steep bank on the 
left, a towered church with a staircase corner 
turret and an Easter flag flying. Round about it 
throng the portly box tombs and their attendant 
headstones, in memory of the Meads, Saunderses, 
Bartlets, Naishes, Webbs, Browns, Aliens, and the 
rest. Among the Browns is James Brown, shep- 
herd " for thirty-nine years," who died in 1887, 
and was then but forty-six. The trees and thatched 
and tiled roofs of the village hid the Plain from 
the churchyard. Inside, the church wall was well 
lined with tablets to the Tinkers, the Smiths, and 
the family of Amor ; but the principal thing is 
the recumbent marble figure of Henry Danvers, 
twenty-one years old when he died in 1654. He 
is musing over a book which appears to be slipping 
from his grasp. The figure of his mother, Eliza- 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 165 

beth, near him is also holding but not reading a 
book. Between the two an earlier female effigy, head 
on cushion, slumbers in a recess. Under one of the 
largest tablets a tiny stone with quaint lettering 
was inset to keep in mind Henevera Yerbury, who 
died at Coulston on March 4, 1672. 

Instead of going straight on through Potterne 
and Devizes, I turned to the left by the Dauntsey 
Agricultural College, and entered a road which fol- 
lows the foot of the Plain westward to Westbury 
and Frome. Thus I had the north wall of the Plain 
always visible on my left as I rode through Little 
Cheverell, Erlestoke, Tinhead, and Edington. The 
road twisted steeply downhill between high banks of 
loose earth and elm roots, half draped by arum, 
dandelion, ground ivy, and parsley, and the flowers 
of speedwell and deadnettle ; then up again to 
Little Cheverell. Here I mounted a bank of 
nettles and celandines under elm trees into the 
churchyard, and between two pairs of pollard limes 
to the door of the church, and walked round it and 
saw the two box tombs smothered in ivy, and the 
spotted old carved stones only two feet out of the 
ground. Behind the church rises Strawberry Hill. 
A cow was lowing in the farmyard over the road. 
Fowls were scratching deeper and deeper the holes 
among the elm roots on the church bank. 



166 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Then for a distance the road traversed hedgeless 
arable levels that rose gently in their young green 
garments up to the Plain. I looked back, and saw 
the vast wall of the Plain making an elbow at West 
Lavington, and crooking round to a clump on a 
straw-coloured hill above Urchfont, the farthest 
point visible. Before me stretched the woods of 
Erlestoke Park, crossing the road and slanting nar- 
row and irregular up and along the hillside, lining 
it with beech and fir for over a mile, under 
the name of Hill Wood. The road dipped steeply 
through the grounds of the park, and its high banks 
of gray sand, dressed in dog's mercury and ivy, and 
overhung by pine trees, shut out everything on 
either hand. Several private bridges crossed the 
deep road, and a woman had stopped that her 
child might shout, " Cuckoo ! Cuckoo ! " under the 
arch of one of them. Emerging from these walls, 
the road cut through a chain of ponds. Erlestoke 
Park lay on both sides. On the right its deer fed 
by the new church under a steep rise of elms and 
sycamores ; on the left rooks cawed among the 
elms and chestnuts scattered on lawn that sloped 
up to Hill Wood. 

A timber-yard, a "George and Dragon," and many 
neat thatched cottages compose the wayside village 
of Erlestoke. Water was flashing down the gutters. 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 167 

Quite a number of people were on the road, but no 
one could tell me the meaning of the statuary 
niched on the cottage walls. It must have come 
from " some old ancient place," they said. An old 
man who had dwelt for eighteen years in one of 
the cottages thus adorned, and had worked as a 
boy with old men that knew the place, could tell 
me no more. Some of the figures were nudes one 
a female, with the coy hands of Venus, rising from 
her bath others classical, and symbolic or gro- 
tesque: all astonishing in that position, ten feet 
up on a cottage wall, and unlikely to have come 
from the old church in Erlestoke Park. 

Not a mile of this road was without cottagers 
strolling with their children or walking out to see 
friends in the beautiful weather. But just out- 
side Erlestoke I met two slightly dilapidated women, 
not cottage women, with a perambulator, and 
twenty yards behind them two weatherbeaten, able- 
bodied men in caps, better dressed than the women. 
As I went by, one of them gave a shout, which I 
did not take as meant for me. He continued to shout 
what I discovered to be " Sir " in a loud voice until 
I turned round and had to get down. They 
advanced to meet me. The shorter man, a stocky 
fellow of not much past thirty, with very little 
nose, thin lips, and a strong, shaven chin, hastened 



168 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

up to me and inquired, in an unnecessarily decided 
manner, the road to Devizes, and if there were 
many houses on the way. The taller man, slender 
and very upright, with bright blue eyes, had by 
this tune come up, and the two began to beg. tell- 
ing rapidly, loudly, emphatically, and complain- 
ingly, a combined story into which the Titanic was 
introduced. One of them pointed out that he was 
wearing the button of the Seamen's Guild. They 
wanted me to look at papers. The two women, 
who were still walking on, they claimed as their 
wives. The more they talked the less inclined did 
I feel to give them money. Though they began 
to call down a blessing on me, I still refused. They 
persisted. The shorter one was not silent while I 
mounted my bicycle. So I rode away out of reach 
of their blessings without giving them anything. I 
tried to explain to myself why. For sixpence I might 
have purchased two loaves or three pints for them, 
and for myself blessings and possibly some sort of 
glow. I did not know nearly enough of man- 
kind to condemn them as mere beggars ; besides, 
mere beggars must live, if any one must. But they 
were very glib and continuous. Also they were 
hearty men in good health which should have been 
a reason for giving them what I could afford. The 
strongest reason against it was probably alarm at 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 169 

being given some responsibility at one blow for five 
bodies in some ways worse off than myself, and 
shame, too, at the act of handing money and 
receiving thanks for it. My conscience was un- 
easy. I could not appease it with sixpence, nor 
with half a sovereign, which might have been 
thought generous if I had told the story. If I was 
to do anything I ought to have seen the thing 
through, to have accompanied these people and seen 
that they slept dry and ate enough, and got work 
or a pension. To give them money was to take 
mean advantage of the fact that in half a mile or 
so I could stow them away among the mysteries 
and miseries of the world. Too late I concluded that 
I ought to have listened to their story to the end, 
to have read their papers and formed an opinion, 
and to have given what I could, because in any 
case I should be none the worse, and they might 
be the better, if only to the extent of three pints 
between them. I made a resolution a sort of a 
resolution to give sixpence in future to every beg- 
gar, and leave the question of right or wrong till 

" When the Archangel's trump shall sound 
And slumbering mortals bid to rise," 

and the schoolmaster's expectation is answered. 
Nevertheless, I was uneasy so uneasy that the 
next beggar got nothing from me. It was simpler to 



170 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

pass by with a helpless " Que sais-je ? " shrug, 
than to stop and have a look at him and say 
something, while I felt in my pockets and made 
the choice between my coppers and my smallest 
silver. 

Thus I rode up hill through more steep banks of 
gray sand draped in ivy, overhung with pine trees. 
Dipping again, I came to a park-like meadow, a 
pond, and a small house above rather stiff, ineffec- 
tual green terraces, on my right ; while on the left 
the wall of the Plain was carved from top to bottom 
by three parallel even rolls like suet puddings, and 
these again carved across horizontally. A little 
farther on Coulston Hill was hollowed out into a 
great round steep bay which had once been a 
beech wood. Now all the beeches were lying any- 
how, but mostly pointing downward, on the steep 
where they had fallen or slid, some singly, some in 
raft-like masses. Not a tree remained upright. 
The bared, blackish earth and the gray stems of 
the colour of charred wood and ashes suggested 
fire. The disorder of the strewn debris suggested 
earthquake. All was silent. A stiff man of fifty 
was endeavouring to loiter without stopping still 
in the road while his daughter of eighteen tried to 
keep her distance behind him by picking anemones 
without actually stopping. 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 171 

Before Tinhead there were more vertical rolls 
and corresponding troughs on the hillside, and at the 
foot again three or four wide terraces, and below 
them a cornfield reaching to the road. To the 
low, dark-blue elm country away from the Plain 
that is, northward and to the far wooded ridge on 
its horizon, the westering light was beginning to 
add a sleepJike softness of pale haze. Over the 
low hedges I saw league after league of this lower 
land, and the drab buttresses of Beacon Hill near 
Devizes on its eastern edge. It had the appearance 
of a level, uninhabitable land of many trees. Several 
times a hollow cleft in the slope below the road 
a cleft walled by trees, but grass-bottomed guides 
the eye out towards it. All along good roads led 
down to the vale, and an equal number of rough 
roads climbed the hillside up to the Plain. I was 
to go down, not up, and I looked with regret at the 
clear ridge and the rampart of Bratton Castle 
carved on it against the sky, the high bare 
slopes, the green magnificent gulleys and horizontal 
terraces, the white roads, and especially a rough 
cartway mounting steeply from Edington between 
prodigious naked banks. For I had formerly gone up 
this cartway on a day so fine that for many nights 
afterwards I could send myself to sleep by think- 
ing of how I climbed, seeing only these precipitous 



172 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

banks and the band of sky above them, until I 
emerged into the glory and the peace of the Plain, 
of the unbounded Plain and the unbounded sky, 
and the marriage of sun and wind that was being 
celebrated upon them. But it was no use going 
the same way, for I was tired and alone, and it was 
near the end of the afternoon, though still cloudily 
bright and warm. I had to go down, not up, to 
find a bed that I knew of seven or eight miles from 
Tinhead and Edington. 

These two are typical downside villages of brick 
and thatch, built on the banks of the main road, a 
parallel lane or two, and some steep connecting 
lanes at right angles. When I first entered them 
from below I was surprised again and again how 
many steps yet higher up the downside they ex- 
tended. From top to bottom the ledges and in- 
clines on which they stand, and the intervening 
spaces of grass and orchard, cover about half a 
mile. Tinhead has an " Old George " inn of an L 
shape, with a yard in the angle. Edington, almost 
linked to Tinhead by cottages scattered along the 
road, has a " Plough " and " Old White Horse." 
They were beginning to advertise the Tinhead and 
Bratton inns as suitable for teas and week-end 
parties. Hence, perhaps, the prefix " Old." For 
hereby is the first station since Lavington on the 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 173 

line that goes parallel to the wall of the Plain and 
a mile or two below the road, all along .the Pewsey 
vale to Westbury. 

I turned away from the hills through Edington, 
which has a big towered church among its farm- 
yards, cottage gardens, and elm slopes big enough 
to seat all Edington, men and cattle. Like Salisbury 
Cathedral, this church looks as if it had been made 
in one piece. All over, it is a uniform rough gray 
without ivy or moss or any stain. On first enter- 
ing the churchyard, what most struck my eye was 
the name of the Rev. Hussy Cave-Browne-Cave, 
for his name is on the fifth step of the cross erected 
during his vicarship ; and next to that a prostrate 
cross within a stone kerb, six yards long by three 
yards wide, in memory of a member of the Long 
family. The church is the centre of a village of 
big box tombs, some ornamented by carving, one 
covered by a stone a foot thick, mossed, lichened, 
stained orange and black, pitted deep by rain, and 
retaining not a letter of its inscription. I saw the 
names Pike, Popler, Oram, and Fatt. Inside, out 
of the rain, lie the Longs, Carters, and Taylers, the 
days of their lives conspicuously recorded, and 
more than this in the case of George Tayler, since 
he died in 1852, and left money for a sixpenny 
cake to be given to each Sunday-school teacher, 



174 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and a threepenny one to each scholar, once a year, 
" immediately after the sermon " (I think, at 
Easter). Mr. Tayler was either an enemy to ser- 
mons, or did not know as much as Sir Philip Sidney 
about schoolboys. One transept is the exclusive 
domain of an Augustinian canon, his head on a 
cushion, his feet against a barrel, while the coping- 
stone of his monument is capped by a barrel and 
a tree sprouting from it. The locked chancel is 
peopled by effigies of great or of rich men lying 
on their backs or kneeling and clasping their hands 
in prayer, as they have done for centuries ; one of 
them a Welshman from Glamorgan, Sir Edward 
Lewys. Round about I read the names Lewis, 
Price, Roberts, Phillips, and Ellis. And speak- 
ing of names, I noticed that the landlord of the 
" Plough " was Pavy, a name which I had seen 
at Stapleford, and long before that in the epitaph 
Ben Jonson wrote on " a child of Queen Eliza- 
beth's Chapel," a boy actor, Salathiel Pavy 

" Weep with me all you that read 

This little story ; 
And know, for whom a tear you shed, 

Death's self is sorry. 
'Twas a child, that so did thrive 

In grace and feature, 
AJS Heaven and nature seemed to strive 

Which owned the creature. 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 175 

Years he numbered scarce thirteen 

When fates turned cruel ; 
Yet three filled zodiacs had he been 

The stage's jewel ; 
And did act, what now we moan, 

Old men so duly, 
As, sooth, the Parcae thought him one, 

He played so truly. 
So, by error, to his fate 

They all consented ; 
But viewing him since, alas, too late 

They have repented ; 
And have sought, to give new birth, 

In baths to steep him ; 
But, being so much too good for earth, 

Heaven vows to keep him." 

The conceit and the babbling metre play most 
daintily with sadness ; yet I think now it would 
touch us little had we not a name to attach 
to it, the name of a boy who acted in Jonson's 
" Cynthia's Revels " and " Poetaster " in 1600 and 
1601. 

A motor car overtook me in the village, scatter- 
ing a group of boys. " Look out ! " cried one, and 
as the thing passed by, turned to the next boy 
with, " There's a fine motor ; worth more than 
you are ; cost a lot of money." Is this not the 
awakening of England ? At least, it is truth. One 
pink foxy boy laughed in my face as if there had 
been iron bars or a wall of plate glass dividing us ; 



176 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

another waited till I had started, to hail me, " Long- 
legs." 

Rapidly I slid down, crossed the railway, and 
found myself in a land where oaks stood in the 
hedges and out in mid-meadow, and the banks 
were all primroses, and a brook gurgled slow among 
rush, marigold, and willow. High above me, on my 
left hand, eastward, was the grandest, cliffiest part 
of the Plain wall, the bastioned angle where it 
bends round southward by Westbury and War- 
minster, bare for the most part, carved with the 
White Horse and with double tiers of chalk pits, 
crowned with the gigantic camps of Bratton, 
Battlesbury, and Scratchbury, ploughed only on 
some of the lower slopes, and pierced by the road 
to Imber. The chimneys of Trowbridge made a 
clump on ahead to my right. In the west the 
dark ridge of the Mendips made the horizon. 

I turned out of my way to see Steeple Ashton. 
It has no steeple, being in fact Staple Ashton, but 
a tower and a dial on a church, a very big church, 
bristling with coarse crockets all over, and knobby 
with coarse gargoyles, half lion and half dog, some 
spewing down, some out, some up. It is not a 
show village, like Lacock, where the houses are 
packed as in a town, and most of the gardens 
invisible ; but a happy alternation of cottages of 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 177 

stone or brick (sometimes placed herring-bone fash- 
ion) or timber work, vegetable gardens, orchard 
plots, and the wagon-maker's. On many a wagon 
for miles round the name of Steeple Ashton is 
painted. It is on level ground, but well up towards 
the Plain, over the wall of which rounded clouds, 
pure white and sunlit, were heaving up. Rain 
threatened again, but did no more. The late after- 
noon grew more and more quiet and still, and in 
the warmth I mistook a distant dog's bark, and 
again a cock's crowing, for the call of a cuckoo, 
mixed with the blackbird's singing. I strained 
my ears, willing to be persuaded, but was not. I 
was sliding easily west, accompanied by rooks go- 
ing homeward, and hailed by thrushes in elm trees 
beside the road through West Ashton and down- 
hill on the straight green-bordered road between 
Carter's Wood and Flowery Wood. I crossed the 
little river Biss and went under the railway to 
North Bradley. This is a village built partly along 
the road from Westbury to Trowbridge, partly 
along two parallel turnings out of it. The most 
conspicuous houses on the main road are the red 
brick and stone villas with railings and small 
gardens, bearing the following names : The 
Laurels, East Lynn, Cremont, Lyndhurst, Hume Villa, 

Alcester Cottage, Rose Villa, and Frith House, all 

12 



178 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

in one row. On a dusty, cold day, when sparrows 
are chattering irresolutely, this is not a cheerful 
spot ; nor yet when an organ-grinder is singing 
and grinding at the same time, while his more 
beauteous and artistic-looking mate stands de- 
ceitfully by and makes all the motions but none 
of the music of a baritone in pain. To the out- 
ward eye, at least, the better part of North Brad- 
ley is the by-road which the old flat-fronted 
asylum of stone faces across a small green, the 
church tower standing behind, half hid by trees. 
I went down this road, past farms called Ireland 
and Scotland on the left, and on the right a green 
lane, where, among pots and pans, a gypsy cara- 
van had anchored, belonging to a Loveridge of 
Bristol. Venus, spiky with beams, hung in the 
pale sky, and Orion stood up before me, above 
the blue woods of the horizon. All the thrushes 
of England sang at that hour, and against that 
background of myriads I heard two or three sing- 
ing their frank, clear notes in a mad eagerness 
to have all done before dark ; for already the 
blackbirds were chinking and shifting places 
along the hedgerows. And presently it was dark, 
but for a lamp at an open door, and silent, but 
for a chained dog barking, and a pine tree moan- 
ing over the house. When the dog ceased, an owl 



OVER SALISBURY PLAIN. 179 

hooted, and when the owl ceased I could just hear 
the river Frome roaring steadily over a weir far 
off. Before I settled into a chair I asked them 
what the weather was going to be like to-morrow. 
" Who knows ? " they said ; "but we do want sun. 
The grass isn't looking so well as it was a month 
ago : it's looking browny." Had any eggs been 
found ? " Not one ; but we've heard of them 
being found, and we've been looking out for plovers' 
eggs." I asked what they did with the song birds' 
eggs, and if they were ever eaten. The idea of 
eating such little eggs disgusted every one over 
fifteen ; but they were fond of moorhens', and had 
once taken twenty-two from a single nest before 
the bird moved to a safe place. Yes, they had 
plenty of chicks, and some young ducks half grown. 
The turkeys were laying, but it was too early to let 
them sit. . . . Again I heard the weir, and I began 
to think of sleep. 



V. 

THREE WESSEX POETS. 

TDEFORE I decided that sleep was better than 
*~r any book, some bad poetry I was reading 
put me in mind of Stephen Duck. I had been 
thinking of him earlier in the day at Erlestoke, 
because it occurred to me that the sculpture was 
as inappropriate on the cottages there as were the 
frigid graces on the thresher's mortal pages. This 
man, a labourer from Charlton, some way east of 
Erlestoke, was made a Yeoman of the Guard in 
1733 for his services to literature, and rector of 
Byfleet in 1752. He drowned himself in 1755, 
when he was fifty. His great achievements were, 
first, to show that an agricultural labourer could 
write as well as ninety-nine out of a hundred clergy- 
men, gentlemen, and noblemen, and extremely 
like them, for his verses rarely had more to do 
with rural life than the sculpture at Erlestoke ; 
second, to show, conversely, that a poet could use 
a scythe, which he tells us he did and made 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 181 

" the vanquished mowers soon confess his skill " 
when revisiting his birthplace. 

Instead of Stephen, George, and John, he sang 
of Colin, Cuddy, and Menalcas ; of Chloe and Celia, 
instead of Ann and Maria. When he set himself 
to write of shepherds, whom he must often have 
met, it fell out thus, 

" From Bath, I travel thro' the sultry vale, 
Till Sal'sb'ry Plains afford a cooling Gale : 
Arcadian Plains where Pan delights to dwell, 
In verdant Beauties cannot these excel : 
These too, like them, might gain immortal Fame, 
Resound with Corydon and Thyrsis' Flame ; 
If, to his Mouth, the Shepherd would apply 
His mellow Pipe, or vocal Music try." 

But, alas, the poor shepherd has not heard of 
pastoral poetry, and does not know oh, happy if 
his happiness he knew that his country is Arcadia ; 
for, as Duck laments, 

" Propt on his Staff, he indolently stands ; 
His Hands support his Head, his Staff his Hands ; 
Or, idly basking in the sunny Ray, 
Supinely lazy, loiters Life away." 

This is a good deal more like a poet than a 
shepherd. The fellow might have retorted that 
even if he converted his sheep hook into a pen he 
might not be the one of whom the poet wrote, 



182 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

" Great Caroline her Koyal Bounty show'd 
To one, and raised him from the grov'ling Crowd " 

that Queen Caroline could not be expected to re- 
plenish the Yeomen with Arcadians only. 

Duck was at least as much awed by the Queen 
as by Nature. Richmond Park and the Royal 
Gardens so disturbed his judgment that he be- 
lieved it possible, if Pope's Muse would visit him, 

" Then Eichmond Hill renown'd in Verse should grow, 
And Thames re-echo to the Song below ; 
A second Eden in my Page should shine, 
And Milton's Paradise submit to mine." 

The Queen's Grotto in Richmond Gardens inspired 
him with the line, 

" The sweetest Grotto and the wisest Queen." 

And yet the poor man said, and in a preface pub- 
lished in his lifetime, " I have not myself been so 
fond of writing, as might be imagined from seeing 
so many things of mine as are got together in this 
Book. Several of them are on Subjects that were 
given me by Persons, to whom I have such great 
Obligations, that I aways thought their desires 
commands." 

Leaving school about his fourteenth year for 
" the several lowest employments of a country 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 183 

life," and marrying before he was twenty, he had 
to work at top pressure in order to make time to 
read the Spectator, which he did " all over sweat 
and heat, without regarding his own health." He 
" got English just as we get Latin." He studied 
" Paradise Lost " as others study the classics, with 
the help of a dictionary. When he wrote about 
the life best known to him, it was usually as any of 
those gentlemen who helped him would have done. 
He made very little advance on Sir Philip Sidney. 

Nevertheless, some things he did write which 
were true and were unlikely to have been written 
by any one else, as when he described the thresher's 
labour, 

" When sooty Pease we thresh, you scarce can know 
Our native Colour as from Work we go : 
The Sweat, the Dust, and suffocating Smoke, 
Make us so much like Ethiopians look. 
We scare our Wives, when Ev'ning brings us home, 
And frighted Infants think the Bugbear come. 
Week after Week, we this dull Task pursue, 
Unless when winn'wing Days produce a new ; 
A new, indeed, but frequently a worse, 
The Threshal yields but to the Master's Curse. 
He counts the Bushels, counts how much a Day ; 
Then swears we've idled half our Time away : 
' Why, look ye, Eogues, d'ye think that this will do ? 
Your neighbours thresh as much again as you.' 
Now in our Hands we wish our noisy Tools, 
To drown the hated Names of Rogues and Fools ; 



184 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

But, wanting these, we just like Schoolboys look, 
When angry Masters view the blotted Book : 
They cry, ' Their Ink was faulty, and their Pen ; ' 
We, ' The Corn threshes bad, 'twas cut too green.' " 

He might have equalled Bloomfield, he might have 
been a much lesser Crabbe, if he could have thrown 
Cuddy and Chloe on to the mixen and kept to the 
slighted homely style. Instead of merely writing 
as if he had been to Oxford, he might have reached 
men's ears with his appeal, 

" Let those who feast at Ease on dainty Fare, 
Pity the Reapers, who their Feasts prepare." 

As a rule his work I mean his writing is so 
remote from Wiltshire and Duck, or the sort of 
reality connected with them which we to-day look 
for, that e.ven the grain or two about Salisbury 
Plain or the Pewsey Vale not quite dissolved in his 
floods of Alexanderpopery delight us, as when he 
calls the lambs bjeating, 

" Too harsh, perhaps, to please politer Ears, 
Yet much the sweetest Tune the Farmer hears : " 

or when he compares the haymakers to sparrows 
at the approach of storm, 

" Thus have I seen, on a bright Summer's Day, 
On some green Brake, a Flock of Sparrows play ; 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 185 

From Twig to Twig, from Bush to Bush they fly ; 
And with continued Chirping fill the Sky : 
But, on a sudden, if a Storm appears, 
Their chirping Noise no longer dins our Ears. 
They fly for Shelter to the thickest Bush, 
There silent sit, and all at once is hush." 

He says little more than enough to make us feel 
how much he could have said if well, if, for 
example, he had been the sort of man to wish to 
employ his flail, not to drown the master's curses, 
but to break his head. But he was ineffectual, if 
not beautiful. The only known material effect of 
his verse was to draw charity from Lord Palmerston 
for providing an annual threshers' dinner, which is 
still given at Charlton on June 30. This feast 
proves him greater as prophet than as poet in 
writing, 

" Oft as this Day returns, shall Temple cheer 
The Threshers' Hearts with Mutton, Beef, and Beer ; 
Hence, when their Children's Children shall admire 
This Holiday, and, whence deriv'd, inquire, 
Some grateful Father, partial to my Fame, 
Shall thus describe from whence, and how it came : 
' Here, Child, a Thresher liv'd in ancient Days ; 
Quaint Songs he sung, and pleasing Roundelays ; 
A gracious Queen his Sonnets did commend, 
And some great Lord, one Temple, was his Friend. 
That Lord was pleas 'd this Holiday to make, 
And feast the Threshers for that Thresher's sake.' " 



186 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

A hundred years were to pass before a country- 
man came to do something of what Duck left 
undone, but, however honestly, did it from the 
point of view of a spectator, a clergyman, a school- 
master, an archaeologist, a reader of Tennyson, 
and the refined contemplators of rural life. He 
lived and died in a country of which most of 
the conditions are to be paralleled on Salisbury 
Plain and the Pewsey Vale. I mean William 
Barnes. 

Dorset is a county of chalk hills divided by broad 
valleys and, in particular, by the valleys of the Stour 
and the Frome. William Barnes is the poet of the 
valleys, the elm and not the beech being his 
favourite tree. In the first year of last century 
he was born in Blackmoor Vale, which is watered 
by a tributary of the Stour : at his death, only 
fourteen years from the century's end, he was 
rector of Came, which is in the valley of the Frome. 
The son of a Dorset farmer, and for most of his life 
a schoolmaster or clergyman within the county, the 
Dorset dialect was his mother tongue, his " only true 
speech." He wrote of Dorset, and for Dorset, and 
strangers, perhaps natives also, might say that the 
man was Dorset. His poems are full of the names 
and the aspects of its towns and villages, its rivers 
and brooks, and the hills that lie around its great 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 187 

central height of Bulbarrow, which is mid-way 
between the homes of his childhood and old age. 

In his " Praise o' Dorset " the poet is very modest, 
with a kind of humorous modesty, about the 
county. Though we may be homely, is the beginning, 
we are not ashamed to own our place ; we have 
some women " not uncomely," and so on. Home- 
liness, in fact, is characteristic of Barnes and of his 
Dorset. He became in some ways a learned man, 
but when he wrote in his mother tongue and from 
the heart, he was the Dorset farmer's son and 
nothing else. From the humble homeliness of his 
work he might have been a labourer, and he did 
more or less deliberately make himself the mouth- 
piece of the Dorset carters, cowmen, mowers, and 
harvesters. These songs, narratives, and dialogues 
bring forward the men at their labours, walking 
with their club flags to church, singing the songs 
of Christmas or Harvest Home. Here they court, 
wed, grow old together, build a new house, or 
return with money saved to their " poor fore- 
fathers' plot o' land." He celebrates the horses, 
Smiler, Violet, Whitefoot, Jack, and " the great 
old wagon uncle had." Separate poems are given 
to notable trees " the great oak tree that's in the 
dell," the cottage lilac tree, the solitary may tree 
by the pond, an aspen by the river at Pentridge, 



188 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

the great elm in the little home-field and its fall. 
" Trees be Company " is the title of one of his 
poems. 

Many of his best passages are about old houses, 
with hearths " hallowed by times o' zitten round," 
and fires that made the heart gay in storm or 
winter, and some of them, like " the great old house 
of mossy stone," with memories of stately ladies 
that once did use 

" To walk wi' hoops an' high-heel shoes " 

along its terraces. It makes me think of a man 
whose ancestors, at any rate, had often been cold, 
homeless, and tired, when I see how often he speaks 
of the hearth, the fire, the shelter of house walls, 
at evening, in hard weather, or in old age. Again 
and again he shows us the men forgetting their 
work for a little while, as they sit among children 
or friends, watching the flames in the window glass, 
or listening to the wind and rain. Give me, he 
says in one poem, even though I were the squire, 
44 the settle and the great wood fire." In another, 
he feels that he can endure all if only evening 
bring peace at home. A man with work, a family, 
and a store of wood for the winter, has every- 
thing : the evening meal and the wife smiling 
make bliss. 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 189 

Barnes felt the pathos of the labourer's rest, and 
one of his finest poems depicts a cottage under a 
swaying poplar, with the moonlight on its door, 

" An' hands, a-tired by day, wer still, 
Wi' moonlight on the door." 

He uses the same effect a second time, adding the 
reflection that the children now sleeping in the 
moonlit house will rise again to fun, and their 
widowed mother to sorrow. These people are 
pathetic because in their " little worold " they 
want and have so little, 

" Drough longsome years a-wanderen, 
Drough Iwonesome rest a-ponderen." 

Anything may eclipse, though nought can extinguish, 
their little joy ; yet they seem made rather for 
sorrow than joy. They have longings, but hardly 
passions. They want to rest after all, not to 
become discontented ghosts like " the weeping 
lady." They are prepared for the worst in this life, 
but the worst is tempered. The dead, for example, 
are safe from all weathers, better off than the bereaved 
who grieve for them " with lonesome love." The 
dead even seem beautiful in memory. There is a 
" glory round the old folk dead," the old uncle and 
aunt who used to walk arm in arm on Sunday 



190 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

evenings about the farm, the grandmother who 
wore " a gown with great flowers like hollyhocks," 
and told tales of ancient times, the old kindly squire 
who so enjoyed life, 

" But now I hope his kindly feace 
Is gone to vind a better pleace." 

Many poems are given to another and not very 
different kind of memories, those of childhood, 
and the essence of them, with a hundred pretty 
variations, is, 

" How smoothly then did run my happy days, 
When things to charm my mind and sight were nigh." 

Most are memories of the open air, of " lonesome 
woodlands, sunny woodlands," the river and the 
harvest fields, to the accompaniment of the songs 
of birds and milkmaids. The children are always 
laughing, playing, dancing in their " tiny shoes," 
but their heavy elders and the home under the elm 
or in the " lonesome " grove of oak remind us, if 
not them, of age and death. 

The love-poems further illustrate Barnes's Dorset 
homeliness and humbleness. Young maidens delight 
him much as children do ; yet even while he is 
praising the Blackmoor maidens he says, 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 191 

" Why, if a man would wive 

An' thrive, 'ithout a dow'r, 
Then let en look en out a wife 
In Blackmwore by the Stour." 

The girls all have something wifely about them. 
The wooer never forgets that the sweetheart may 
be the wife ; he wishes her less care than her mother 
had, and looks forward to old age in her company. 
He is not a wild wooer. He is content to sit in a 
gathering and hear his Jane " put in a good word 
now and then," and have a smile and a blush from 
her at the door on parting : having carried her 
pail he is satisfied to know that she would have 
bowed when she took it back had it not been too 
heavy. He wants a maid who is " good and true," 
" good and fair," and healthy, and to have always 
beside him the " welcome face and homely name." 
Once he may have been ruffled by a mere beauty 
in a scarlet cloak, but probably he soon sets his 
heart on one who may bring him happiness with 
children, contentment with age, and perhaps help 
him to a little fortune in the thatched cottage 
" below the elems by the bridge." The lovers, like 
the poet himself, go with heads a little bowed, as if 
in readiness for blows. It is in contrast with these 
rather stiff, darkened men and women, who have 
winter and poverty on their horizon, that the 



192 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

children in Barnes's poetry are so blithe, his Spring 
days so buoyant, and his flowers and birds among 
the brightest and freshest in any of the poets. 

But there is a greater than Duck or Barnes still 
among us, a wide-ranging poet, who is always a 
countryman of a somewhat lonely heart, Mr. 
Thomas Hardy. For I do notice something in his 
poetry which I hope I may with respect call rustic, 
and, what is much the same thing, old-fashioned. 
It enables him to mingle elements unexpectedly, 
so that, thinking of 1967 in the year 1867, he spoke 
not only of the new century having " new minds, 
new modes, new fools, new wise," but concluded, 

" For I would only ask thereof 
That thy worm should be my worm, Love " 

which is as antique as Donne's Flea that wedded 
the lovers by combining blood from both of them 
within its body. The same rusticity manifests 
itself elsewhere as Elizabethanism, and the poet is 
something of a " liberal shepherd " in his willing- 
ness to give things their grosser names or to hint 
at them. He has a real taste for such comparisons 
as that made by a French officer looking at the 
English fleet at Trafalgar, 

" Their overcrowded sails 

Bulge like blown bladders in a tripeman's shop 
The market-morning after slaughter-day." 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 193 

Then, how his illustrations to his own poems such 
as the pair of spectacles lying right across the land- 
scape, following " In a Eweleaze near Weather- 
bury " remind us of a seventeenth-century book 
of emblems ! 

Sometimes his excuse is that he is impersonating 
a man of an earlier age, as in the Sergeant's song, 

" When Husbands with their Wives agree, 
And Maids won't wed from modesty, 
Then little Boney he'll pounce down, 
And march his men on London town. 

Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lorum, 

Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lay." 

He has written songs and narratives which prove 
his descent from some ancient ballad-maker, perhaps 
the one who wrote " A pleasant ballad of the merry 
miller's wooing of the baker's daughter of Man- 
chester," or " A new ballade, showing the cruel 
robberies and lewd life of Philip Collins, alias 
Osburne, commonly called Philip of the West, 
who was pressed to death at Newgate in London 
the third of December last past, 1597," to be sung 
to the tune of " Pagginton's round." Some of the 
lyric stanzas to which he fits a narrative originated 
probably in some such tune. 

And how often is he delighted to represent a 
peasant's view, a peasant's contribution to the irony 



194 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

of things, a capital instance being the Belgian who 
killed Grouchy to save his farm, and so lost Napoleon 
the battle of Waterloo. 

With this rusticity, if that be the right name for 
it, I cannot help connecting that most tyrannous 
obsession of the blindness of Fate, the carelessness 
of Nature, and the insignificance of Man, crawling 
in multitudes like caterpillars, twitched by the 
Immanent Will hither and thither. Over and over 
again, from the earliest poems up to the " Dynasts," 
he amplifies those words which he puts into the 
mouth of God, 

" My labours, logicless, 

You may explain ; not I : 
Sense-sealed I have wrought, without a guess 
That I evolved a Consciousness 

To ask for reasons why." 

And, referring to the earth, 

" It lost my interest from the first, 
My aims therefor succeeding ill ; 
Haply it died of doing as it durst. 
Lord, it existeth still." 

" Sportsman Time " and " those purblind Doom- 
sters " are characteristic phrases. The many things 
said by him of birth he sums up at the end of a 
death-bed poem, 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 195 

'* We see by littles now the deft achievement 
Whereby she has escaped the Wrongers all, 
In view of which our momentary bereavement 
Outshapes but small." 

As gravely he descends to the ludicrous extreme of 
making a country girl planting a pine-tree sing, 

" It will sigh in the morning, 

Will sigh at noon, 
At the winter's warning, 

In wafts of June ; 
Grieving that never 

Kind Fate decreed 
It could not ever 

Remain a seed, 
And shun the welter 

Of things without, 
Unneeding shelter 

From storm and drought." 

He puts into the mouths of field, flock, and tree 
because while he gazed at them at dawn they 
looked like chastened children sitting in school 
silent the question, 

" Has some Vast Imbecility, 
Mighty to build and blend, 
But impotent to tend, 
Framed us in jest, and left us now to hazardry ? " 

Napoleon, in the " Dynasts," asks the question, 
" Why am I here ? " and answers it, 



196 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

" By laws imposed on me inexorably. 
History makes use of me to weave her web." 

Twentieth century superstition can no farther go 
than in that enormous poem, which is astonishing 
in many ways, not least in being readable. I call 
it superstition because truth, or a genuine attempt 
at truth, has been turned apparently by an isolated 
rustic imagination into an obsession so powerful 
that only a very great talent could have rescued 
anything uninjured from the weight of it. A 
hundred years ago, Mr. Hardy would have seen 
" real ghosts." To-day he has to invent them, and 
call his Spirits of the Years and of the Pities, 
Spirits Sinister and Ironic, Rumours and Record- 
ing Angels, who have the best seats at the human 
comedy, " contrivances of the fancy merely." 

Even his use of irony verges on the superstitious. 
Artistically, at least in the shorter poems, it may 
be sound, and is certainly effective, as where the 
old man laments on learning that his wife is to be in 
the same wing of the workhouse, instead of setting 
him " free of his forty years' chain." But the fre- 
quent use and abuse of it change the reader's smile 
into a laugh at the perversity. 

Mr. Hardy must have discovered the blindness of 
Fate, the indifference of Nature, and the irony of 
Life, before he met them in books. They have 



THREE WESSEX POETS. 197 

been brooded over in solitude, until they afflict him 
as the wickedness of man afflicts a Puritan. The 
skull and crossbones, Death the scythed skeleton, 
and the symbolic hour-glass have been as real to 
him as to some of those carvers of tombstones in 
country churchyards, or to the painter of that 
window at St. Edmund's in Salisbury who repre- 
sented " God the Father ... in blue and red vests, 
like a little old man, the head, feet, and hands 
naked ; in one place fixing a pair of compasses on 
the sun and moon." If I were told that he had 
spent his days in a woodland hermitage, though I 
should not believe the story, I should suspect that 
it was founded on fact. 

But the woodland, and the country in general, 
have given Mr. Hardy some of his principal con- 
solations. And one, at least, of these is almost 
superstitious. I mean the idea that " the longlegs, 
the moth, and the dumbledore " know " earth- 
secrets " that he knows not. In the " Darkling 
Thrush " it is to be found in another stage, the 
bird's song in Winter impelling him to think that 
" some blessed Hope " of which he was unaware 
was known to it. He compares town and country 
much as Meredith does. The country is paradise in 
the comparison ; for he speaks of the Holiday Fund 
for City Children as temporarily " changing their 



198 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

urban murk to paradise." Country life, paradise 
or not, he handles with a combination of power 
and exactness beyond that of any poet who could 
be compared to him, and for country women I 
should give the palm to his " Julie-Jane," 

" Sing ; how 'a would sing, 

How 'a would raise the tune, 
When we rode in the wagon from harvesting 

By the light of the moon. . . . 
Bubbling and brightsome eyed, 
But now never again ! 
She chose her bearers before she died 
From her fancy-men." 

Such a woman has even made him merry like his 
fiddling ancestor, in the song of " The Dark-eyed 
Gentleman," 

" And he came and he tied up my garter for me." 

And what with Nature and Beauty and Truth he is 
really farther from surrender than might appear in 
some poems. His " Let me enjoy " 

" Let me enjoy the earth no less 

Because the all-enacting Might 
That fashioned forth its loveliness 
Had other aims than my delight " 

is in the minor key, but by no means repudiates or 
makes little of Joy, and is at least as likely as, 
" Lord, with what care hast thou begirt us round," 
to make a marching song. 



VI. 

THE AVON, THE BISS, THE FBOME. 

ONCE in the night I awoke and heard the weir 
again, but the first sound in the morning 
was a thrush singing in a lilac next my window. 
For the main chorus of dawn was over. It was a 
still morning under a sky that was one low arch of 
cloud, a little whiter in places, but all gray. Big 
drops glistened on the undersides of horizontal 
rails. There had been a white frost, and, as they 
said, we seldom have many white frosts before it 
rains again. But not until I went out could I tell 
that it was softly and coldly raining. Everything 
more than two or three fields away was hidden. 

Cycling is inferior to walking in this weather, be- 
cause in cycling chiefly ample views are to be seen, 
and the mist conceals them. You travel too quickly 
to notice many small things ; you see nothing save 
the troops of elms on the verge of invisibility. But 
walking I saw every small thing one by one ; not 
only the handsome gateway chestnut just fully 



200 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

dressed, and the pale green larch plantation where 
another chiff-chaff was singing, and the tall elm 
tipped by a linnet pausing and musing a few notes, 
but every primrose and celandine and dandelion 
on the banks, every silvered green leaf of honey- 
suckle up in the hedge, every patch of brightest 
moss, every luminous drop on a thorn tip. The 
world seemed a small place : as I went between a 
row of elms and a row of beeches occupied by rooks, 
I had a feeling that the road, that the world itself, 
was private, all theirs ; and the state of the road 
under their nests confirmed me. I was going 
hither and thither to-day in the neighbourhood 
of my stopping place, instead of continuing my 
journey. 

At a quarter-past nine it drizzled slightly more, 
but by ten the sky whitened, the grass gleamed. 
Over the broad field where the fowls and turkeys 
feed, and a retriever guards them, the keeper was 
walking slow and heavy, carrying a mattock, and 
after him two men, one in gaiters. While they 
were disappearing from sight in the corner where 
the field runs up into the wood, the chained retriever 
stood and whined piteously after them. I under- 
stood him very well. And somehow the men 
setting out thus for a day's work in the woods 
prophesied fine weather. Yet at half-past ten the 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 201 

gray thrust the white down again to the horizon, 
where the elms printed themselves against it. 

The sun came out in earnest at eleven, and shone 
upon a field of tall yellow mustard and a man 
loading a cart with it, and I ceased to bend my 
back and crook my neck towards violet, primrose, 
anemone, and dog's mercury in the blackthorn 
hedges, and I let the sun have a chance with me. 
I was trespassing, but, alas ! no glory any longer 
attaches to trespassing, because every one is so 
civil unless you are a plain or ill-dressed woman, 
or a child, or obviously a poet. So I came well- 
warmed to Rudge, a hamlet collected about a 
meeting of roads and scattered up a steep hill, 
along one of these roads. The collection includes a 
small inn called the " Half Moon," a plain Baptist 
chapel, several stone cottages, several ruins, solid 
but roofless, used solely to advertise sales, and a 
signpost pointing to Berkley and Frome past the 
ruined cottages, to Westbury and Bradley down- 
hill from the inn, through the woods about the 
river Biss, and uphill to Road and Beckington. 
Southward I saw the single bare hump of Cley Hill 
five miles away, near Warminster : northward, the 
broad wooded vale rising up to hills on the horizon. 
I went uphill, between two bright trickles of water. 
The steep roadside bank, strengthened by a stone 



202 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

wall, was well-grown with pennywort and cranes- 
bill, overhung by goose grass and ivy, and bathed 
at its foot by grass and nettles. The wall in one 
place is hollowed out into a cavernous, dark dip- 
well or water-cupboard. The rest of the village is 
built upon the banks. First comes a Wesleyan 
chapel, a neat, cold, demure little barn of the 
early nineteenth century, having a cypress on 
either side of its front door, and a few gravestones 
round about. One of these caught my eye with the 

verse 

" And am I born to die, 
To lay this body down, 
And must my trembling spirit fly 
Into a world unknown ? " 

and the name of Mary Willcox, who died in 1901 at 
the age of eighty-eight. A cottage or two stand 
not quite opposite, behind gardens of wallflowers, 
mezereon, periwinkle, and tall copper-coloured 
peony shoots, and a wall smothered in snow-on-the- 
mountains or alyssum. On the same side, beyond, 
a dark farm-house and its outbuildings project and 
cause the road and water to twist. The bank on 
that side, the left, covered with celandines and 
topped with elms, now carries a footpath of broad 
flagstones a yard or two above the road. Where 
this footpath ends, the road, still ascending, forks, 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 203 

and at once rejoins itself, thus making a small 
triangular island, occupied by a ruinous, ivy-mantled 
cottage and a cultivated vegetable garden. At the 
lower side a newish villa with a piano faces past the 
ruin uphill. At the upper side, facing past the ruin 
and the villa downhill, is a high- walled stone house of 
several gables, small enough, but possessing dignity 
and even a certain faint grimness : it is backed on 
the roadside by farm buildings. I saw and heard 
nobody from the " Half Moon " to this house, ex- 
cept a chicken. Here I turned off from the road 
along a lane which ended a mile away at a cottage 
and a farm-house, and in one of the ploughed fields 
I came upon a plain stone tower, consisting of two 
storeys, round-arched, roofless, in the company of 
a tall lime tree. It looks over the low land towards 
the White Horse at Westbury. Once, they told me, 
the upper storey held a water tank ; but as the map 
shows an ancient beacon at about this spot, I thought 
of it as a beacon rather than as a water tower. 

I returned and went some way along the road to 
Beckington. A few people were walking in towards 
Rudge, children were picking primroses from both 
sides of the hedges, watched silently and steadfastly 
by a baby in a perambulator, not less happy in the 
sun than they. For the sun shone radiant and warm 
out of a whitewashed sky on the red plough! ands 



204 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

and wet daisy meadows by Seymour's Court Farm, 
on the teams pulling chain harrows and pewits 
plunging round them, and on the flag waving over 
Road Church as if for some natural festival. I found 
my first thrush's egg of the year along this road, 
in which I was fortunate ; for the bank below the 
nest had been trodden into steps by boys who had 
examined it before me. 

I went downhill again through Rudge and took 
the road for North Bradley, keeping above the left 
bank of the river Biss and commanding the White 
Horse on the pale wall of the Plain beyond it. 
This took me past Cutteridge, a modest farm, all 
that remains of a great house, whose long avenues 
of limes, crooked and often as dense as a magpie's 
nest, still radiate from it on three sides. This is 
a country of noble elms, spreading like oaks, above 
celandine banks. 

Turning to the right down a steep- sided lane after 
passing Cutteridge I reached the flat, rushy, and 
willowy green valley of the Biss. The road forded 
the brook and brought me up into the sloping court- 
yard of Brook House Farm. On the right was a 
high wall and a pile of rough cordwood against it ; on 
the left a buttressed, ecclesiastical-looking building 
with tiers of windows and three doorways, some 
four or five centuries old; and before me, at the 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 205 

top of the yard, between the upper end of the high 
wall and the ecclesiastical-looking building, was the 
back of the farm-house, its brass pans gleaming. 
This is the remnant of Brook House. What is now 
a cowshed below, a cheese room above, has been 
the chapel of Brook House, formerly the seat of 
Paveleys, Joneses, and Cheneys. The brook below 
was once called Baron's brook on account of the 
barony conferred on the owner : the family of 
Willoughby de Broke are said to have taken their 
name from it. The cows made an excellent con- 
gregation, free from all the disadvantages of 
believing or wanting to believe in the immortality 
of the soul, in the lower half of the old chapel ; the 
upper floor and its shelves of Cheddar cheeses of all 
sizes could not offend the most jealous deity or his 
most j ealous worshippers. The high, intricate rafter- 
work of the tiled roof was open, and the timber, 
as pale as if newly scrubbed, was free from cob- 
webs in fact, chestnut wood is said to forbid cob- 
webs. Against the wall leaned long boards bearing 
the round stains of bygone cheeses. Every one 
who could write had carved his name on the stone. 
Instead of windows there were three doors in the 
side away from the quadrangle, as if at one time 
they had been entered either from a contiguous 
building or by a staircase from beneath. Evidently 



206 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

both the upper and the lower chambers were 
formerly subdivided into cells of some kind. 

The farm-house is presumably the remnant of the 
old manor house, cool and still, looking out away 
from the quadrangle over a garden containing a 
broad, rough-hewn stone disinterred hereby, and a 
green field corrugated in parallelograms betokening 
old walls or an encampment. The field next to this 
is spoken of as a churchyard, but there seems to be 
no record of skeletons found there. Half a mile off 
in different directions are Cutteridge, Hawkeridge, 
and Storridge, but nothing nearer in that narrow, 
gentle valley. . . . 

The afternoon was as fine as Easter Monday could 
be, all that could be desired by chapel-goers for 
their Anniversary Tea. It was the very weather 
that Trowbridge people needed on Good Friday for 
a walk to Farleigh Castle, for beer or tea and 
watercress at the " Hungerford Arms." As I 
bicycled into Trowbridge at four o'clock the in- 
habitants were streaming out along the dry road 
westward. 

I am not fond of crowds, but this holiday crowd 
caused no particular distaste. Away from their 
town and separated into small groups they had no 
cumulative effect. They were for the time being 
travellers as much as I was. In any case, a town 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 207 

like Trowbridge is used to strangers of all kinds 
passing through it : it would take a South Sea 
Islander in native costume to make it stare as a 
village does. The crowd that I dislike most is the 
crowd near Clapham Junction on a Saturday after- 
noon. Though born and bred a Clapham Junction 
man, I have become indifferently so. Perhaps I 
ought to call my feeling fear : alarm comes first, 
followed rapidly by dislike. It is a crowd of consider- 
able size, consisting of women shopping, of young 
men and women promenading, mostly apart, though 
not blind to one another, and of men returning from 
offices. They take things fairly easily, even these 
last, and can look about. I shall not pretend to 
define the difference between them and a village or 
a provincial town crowd. It is less homely than a 
village, less compact and abounding in clear types 
than a town. It is a disintegrated crowd, rather 
suspicious and shy perhaps, where few know, or 
could guess much about, the others. When I find 
myself among them, I am more confused and 
uneasy than in any other crowd. I cannot settle 
down in it to notice the three or four or half a dozen 
types, as I should do at Swindon, or Swansea, or 
Coventry ; nor yet to please myself as with the 
general look of a village mob of forty or fifty, and 
a few of the most remarkable individuals. Here, 



208 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

at Clapham Junction, each one asks a separate 
question. In a quarter of an hour I am bewildered 
and dejected. 

How different it is from a London crowd. In 
London everybody is a Londoner. Once in the 
Strand or Oxford Street I am as much at home as 
any one. If I were to walk up and down con- 
tinuously for a week I should not be noticed any 
more than I am now. For all they know I am an 
Old Inhabitant. So is every one else from Cartmel 
or Tregaron. There are no lookers on : all are 
lookers on. I look hard at every one as at the 
pictures in a gallery, and no offence is taken. I 
can lose myself comfortably amongst them, and 
wake up again only when I find myself alone. Each 
day, except in the shops, an entirely new set of 
faces is seen, so far as memory tells me. A burly 
flower-girl, a white-haired youth, and a broken- 
down, long-haired actor or poet, are the only 
strangers in London I have seen more than once. 
Yet the combination is familiar. I am a Londoner, 
and I am at home. But I am not a Clapham 
Junction man any more than I am a Trowbridge 
man. Perhaps the reason of my discontent is that 
there are no Clapham Junction men, that all are 
strangers and aware of it, that they never truly 
make a mob like the factory men at New Swindon, 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 209 

and yet are too numerous to be regarded as villagers 
like the people of Rudge. 

I did not stop in Trowbridge. Its twenty chim- 
neys were as tranquil as its tall spire, and its 
slaughter-house as silent as the adjacent church, 
where the poet Crabbe, once vicar, is commemorated 
by a tablet, informing the world that he rose by his 
abilities. In fact, the noisiest thing in Trowbridge 
was the rookery where I left it. Like nearly all 
towns market towns, factory towns Trowbridge 
is girdled by villas, chestnuts, and elms, and in the 
trees rooks build, thus making a ceremoniously 
rustic entrance or exit. While the rooks cawed over- 
head, the blackbirds sang below. 

As far as Hilperton and the " Lion and Fiddle," 
houses and fields alternated along the road, but 
after that I entered a broad elmy country of young 
corn and new-ploughed land sweeping gradually 
away on my right up to grass slopes, and to the 
foot of dark Roundway Down and pale Beacon 
Hill, above Devizes. Far to the left the meadow 
land swelled up into the wooded high land above 
Lacock, Corsham, and Bath. Under elms near 
Semington the threshing-machine boomed; its un- 
changing note mingled with a hiss at the addition 
of each sheaf. Otherwise the earth was the 

rooks', heaven was the larks', and I rode easily 

14 



210 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

on along the good level road somewhere between 
the two. 

Motion was extraordinarily easy that afternoon, 
and I had no doubts that I did well to bicycle 
instead of walking. It was as easy as riding in a 
cart, and more satisfying to a restless man. At the 
same time I was a great deal nearer to being a 
disembodied spirit than I can often be. I was not 
at all tired, so far as I knew. No people or thoughts 
embarrassed me. I fed through the senses directly, 
but very temperately, through the eyes chiefly, and 
was happier than is explicable or seems reasonable. 
This pleasure of my disembodied spirit (so to call 
it) was an inhuman and diffused one, such as may 
be attained by whatever dregs of this our life 
survive after death. In fact, had I to describe the 
adventure of this remnant of a man I should ex- 
press it somewhat thus, with no need of help from 
Dante, Mr. A. C. Benson, or any other visitors to 
the afterworld. In a different mood I might have 
been encouraged to believe the experience a fore- 
taste of a sort of imprisonment in the viewless 
winds, or of a spiritual share in the task of keeping 
the cloudy winds " fresh for the opening of the 
morning's eye." Supposing I were persuaded to 
provide this afterworld with some of the usual 
furniture, I could borrow several visible things 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 211 

from that ride through Semington, Melksham, and 
Staverton. First and chief would be the Phoenix 
" Swiss " Milk Factory where I crossed the Avon 
at Staverton. It is an enormous stone cube, with 
multitudinous windows all alike, and at the back 
of it two tall chimneys. The Avon winding at its 
foot is a beautiful, willowy river. On the opposite 
side of the road and bridge the river bank rises up 
steeply, clothed evenly with elms, and crowned by 
Staverton's little church which the trees half 
conceal. . . . This many-windowed naked mass, 
surmounted by a stone phoenix, immediately over 
the conspicuous information that it was burnt on 
November 5, 1834, and rebuilt on April 28 of the next 
year, is as big as a cathedral, and like a cathedral 
in possessing a rookery in the riverside elms behind 
it. With the small, shadowed church opposite, I 
feel sure that it would need little transmutation to 
fall into the geography of a land of shades. But the 
most beautiful thing of all was the broad meadow 
called Challimead on the west of Melksham, and 
the towered church lying along the summit of the 
gentle rise in which it ends. I bicycled along the 
north-west side of it immediately after leaving 
Melksham on the way to Holt. Elms of a hundred 
years' growth lined the road, some upright, most 
lying amid the wreckage of their branchwork far 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

out over the grass. Parallel with the road and 
much nearer to it than to the church the Avon 
serpentined along the meadow without disturbing 
the level three furlongs of its perfect green. The 
windows of the church flamed in the last sunbeams, 
the tombstones were clear white. For this meadow 
at least there should be a place in any Elysium. 
It would be a suitable model for the meadow of 
heavenly sheen where JEneas saw the blessed souls 
of Ilus and Assaracus and Dardanus and the bard 
Musaeus, heroes and wise men, and the beautiful 
horses of the heroes, in that diviner air lighted by 
another sun and other stars than ours. 

But our sun was fading over Challimead. The 
air grew cold as I went on, and the pewits cried as 
if it were whiter. The rooks were now silent dots 
all over the elms of the Trowbridge rookery. A 
light mist was brushing over the fields, softening 
the brightness of Venus in the pale rosy west, and 
the scarlet flames that leapt suddenly from a thorn 
pile in a field. Probably there would be another 
frost to-night. . . . People were returning to the town 
in small and more scattered groups. At corners and 
crossways figures were standing talking, or bidding 
farewell. I rode on easily through the chill, friendly 
land. Clear hoofs hammering and men or girls talk- 
ing in traps were but an added music to the quiet 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 

throughout the evening. I began to feel some con- 
fidence in the Spring. 

I went out into the village at about half-past nine 
in the dark, quiet evening. A few stars penetrated 
the soft sky; a few lights shone on earth, from 
a distant farm seen through a gap in the cottages. 
Single and in groups, separated by gardens or bits 
of orchard, the cottages were vaguely discernible : 
here and there a yellow window square gave out a 
feeling of home, tranquillity, security. Nearly all 
were silent. Ordinary speech was not to be heard, 
but from one house came the sounds of an har- 
monium being played and a voice singing a hymn, 
both faintly. A dog barked far off. After an 
interval a gate fell-to lightly. Nobody was on the 
road. 

The road was visible most dimly, and was like a 
pale mist at an uncertain distance. When I reached 
the green all was still and silent. The cottages on 
the opposite side of the road all lay back, and they 
were merely blacker stains on the darkness. The 
pollard willows fringing the green, which in the 
sunlight resemble mops, were now very much like 
a procession of men, strange primaeval beings, 
pausing to meditate in the darkness. 

The intervals between the cottages were longer 
here, and still longer ; I ceased to notice them 



214 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

until I came to the last house, a small farm, where 
the dog growled, but in a subdued tone, as if only 
to condemn my footsteps on the deserted road. 

Rows of elm trees on both sides of the road suc- 
ceeded. I walked more slowly, and at a gateway 
stopped. While I leaned looking over it at nothing, 
there was a long silence that could be felt, so that a 
train whistling two miles away seemed as remote as 
the stars. The noise could not overleap the bound- 
aries of that silence. And yet I presently moved 
away, back towards the village, with slow steps. 

I was tasting the quiet and the safety without 
a thought. Night had no evil in it. Though a 
stranger, I believed that no one wished harm to me. 
The first man I saw, fitfully revealed by a swinging 
lantern as he crossed his garden, seemed to me to 
have the same feeling, to be utterly free of trouble 
or any care. A man slightly drunk deviated towards 
me, halted muttering, and deviated away again. 
I heard his gate shut, and he was absorbed. 

The inn door, which was now open, was as the 
entrance to a bright cave in the middle of the 
darkness : the illumination had a kind of blessedness 
such as it might have had to a cow, not without 
foreignness ; and a half-seen man within it belonged 
to a world, blessed indeed, but far different from 
this one of mine, dark, soft, and tranquil. I felt 



THE AVON, BISS, AND FROME. 215 

that I could walk on thus, sipping the evening 
silence and solitude, endlessly. But at the house 
where I was staying I stopped as usual. I entered, 
blinked at the light, and by laughing at something, 
said with the intention of being laughed at, I 
swiftly again naturalized myself. 






VII. 

TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 

T AWOKE to hear ducklings squeaking, and a 
-* starling in the pine tree imitating the curlew 
and the owl hunting. Then I heard another chiff- 
chaff. Everything more than a quarter of a mile 
away was hidden by the mist of a motionless white 
frost, but the blackbird disregarded it. At a quarter 
to eight he was singing perfectly in an oak at the 
cross roads. The sun had melted the frost wherever 
it was not protected by hedges or fallen trees. Soon 
a breeze broke up and scattered and destroyed the 
mist, and I set out on a warm, cloudy morning that 
could do no wrong. As I was riding down the half- 
way hill between Trowbridge and Bradford, where 
the hedge has a number of thorns trimmed to an 
umbrella shape at intervals, they were ploughing with 
two horses, and the sun gleamed on the muscles of 
the horses and the polished slabs of the furrows. 
Jackdaws were flying and crying over Bradford-on- 
Avon. 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 217 

I dismounted by the empty " Lamb " inn, with 
a statue of a black-faced lamb over its porch, and 
sat on the bridge. The Avon ran swift, but calm 
and dull, down under the bridge and away west- 
ward. The town hill rises from off the water, cov- 
ered as with scales with stone houses of countless 
varieties of blackened gray and many gables, and 
so steep that the roofs of one horizontal street are 
only just higher than the doorsteps of the one above. 
A brewery towers from the mass at the far side, 
and, near the top, a factory with the words " For 
Sale " printed on its roof in huge letters. And the 
smoke of factories blew across the town. The 
hilltop above the houses is crested with beeches 
and rooks' nests against the blue. The narrow 
space between the foot of the hill and the river 
is occupied by private gardens, a church and its 
churchyard yews and chestnuts, and by a tall 
empty factory based on the river bank itself, with 
a notice " To Let." Opposite this a small public 
garden of grass and planes and chestnuts comes 
to the water's edge, and next to that, a workshop 
and a house or two, separated from the water by 
rough willowy plots, an angle of flat grass and an 
almond tree, and private gardens. Behind me the 
river disappeared among houses and willows. 

As I sat there, who should come up and stare at 



218 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

the chapel on the bridge and its weather-vane of a 
gilded perch, but the Other Man. Surprise suffi- 
ciently fortified whatever pleasure we felt to compel 
us to join company ; for he also was going to Wells. 
We took the Frome road as far as Winkfield, 
where we turned off westward to Farleigh Hunger- 
ford. In half a mile we were in Somerset, descend- 
ing by a steep bank of celandines under beeches 
that rose up on our right towards the Frome. The 
river lay clear ahead of us, and to our left. A 
bushy hill, terraced horizontally, rose beyond it, 
and Farleigh Hungerford Castle, an ivied front, a 
hollow-eyed round tower, and a gateway, faced us 
from the brow. From the bridge, and the ruined 
cottages and mills collected round it, we walked 
up to the castle, which is a show place. From here 
the Other Man would have me turn aside to see 
Tellisford. This is a hamlet scattered along half 
a mile of by-road, from a church at the corner down 
to the Frome. Once there was a ford, but now you 
cross by a stone footbridge with white wooden 
handrails. A ruined flock-mill and a ruined ancient 
house stand next to it on one side ; on the other 
the only house is a farm with a round tower em- 
bodied in its front. Away from this farm a beautiful 
meadow slopes between the river and the woods 
above. This grass, which becomes level for a few 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 219 

yards nearest the bank, was the best possible place, 
said the Other Man, for running in the sun after 
bathing at the weir we could see its white wall 
of foam half a mile higher up the river, which was 
concealed by alders beyond. He said it was a 
great haunt of nightingales. And there was also 
a service tree ; and, said he, in that tree sang a 
thrush all through May it was the best May that 
ever was and so well it sang, unlike any other 
thrush, that it made him think he would gladly 
live no longer than a thrush if he could do some one 
thing as right, as crisp and rich, as the song was. 
" I suppose you write books," said I. " I do," said 
he. " What sort of books do you write ? " "I 
wrote one all about this valley of the Frome. . . . 
But no one knows that it was the Frome I meant. 
You look surprised. Nevertheless, I got fifty 
pounds for it." " That is a lot of money for such 
a book ! " " So my publisher thought." " And 
you are lucky to get money for doing what you 
like." " What I like ! " he muttered, pushing his 
bicycle back uphill, past the goats by the ruin, and 
up the steps between walls that were lovely with 
humid moneywort, and saxifrage like filigree, and 
ivy-leaved toadflax. Apparently the effort loosened 
his tongue. He rambled on and on about himself, 
his past, his writing, his digestion ; his main point 



220 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

being that he did not like writing. He had been 
attempting the impossible task of reducing un- 
digested notes about all sorts of details to a gram- 
matical, continuous narrative. He abused note- 
books violently. He said that they blinded him 
to nearly everything that would not go into the 
form of notes ; or, at any rate, he could never 
afterwards reproduce the great effects of Nature 
and fill in the interstices merely which was all 
they were good for from the notes. The notes 
often of things which he would otherwise have 
forgotten had to fill the whole canvas. Whereas, 
if he had taken none, then only the important, 
what he truly cared for, would have survived in 
his memory, arranged not perhaps as they were in 
Nature, but at least according to the tendencies of 
his own spirit. " Good God ! " said he. But luckily 
we were by this time on the level. I mounted. He 
followed. 

Thanks, I suppose, to the Other Man's conversa- 
tion, we took the wrong road, retracing our steps 
to Farleigh instead of going straight on to Norton 
St. Philip. However, it was a fine day. The sun 
shone quietly ; the new-cut hedges were green and 
trim ; neither did any of the prunings puncture our 
tyres. Near the crossing from Wolverton to Fresh- 
ford and Bath we sat down on a sheep trough and 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 

ate lunch in a sloping field sprinkled with oak 
trees. The Other Man ate monkey-nuts for the 
benefit of his health, but pointed out that the 
monkey-nuts, like beef-steak, turned into himself. 
He informed me that he had been all over Salisbury 
on Saturday night and Bradford on Monday morn- 
ing in a vain search for brown bread. But as the 
monkey-nuts had the merit of absorbing most of 
his attention he talked comparatively little. I was 
free, therefore, to look down over our field and over 
drab grass and misted copses southward to Cley 
Hill, a dim, broad landscape that seemed to be 
expecting to bring something forth. 

We had not gone a mile from this stopping- 
place when the Other Man got off to look over 
the " George " at Norton St. Philip, another show 
place, known to its proprietor as " the oldest 
licensed house in England," and once for a night 
occupied by the Duke of Monmouth. It is a con- 
siderable, venerable house, timbered in front, with 
a room that was formerly a wool market extending 
over its whole length and breadth under the roof. 
In the rear of it crowded many pent-houses and 
outbuildings, equivalent to a hamlet, and once, 
no doubt, sufficient for all purposes connected with 
travel on foot or horseback. The Other Man was 
scared out of it in good time by a new arrival, a 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

man of magnificent voice, who talked with authority, 
and without permission and without intermission, 
to any one whom neighbourhood made a listener. 
After a wish that the talker might become dumb, 
or he himself deaf, the Other Man escaped. 

We glided down the street to a little tributary 
of a tributary too pleasantly to stop at the church 
below, though it had a grand tower with tiers of 
windows. The rise following brought us up to 
where a road crosses from Wellow, and at the 
crossing stands a small isolated inn called " Tuckers- 
grave." Who Tucker was, and whether it was a 
man or a woman buried at the crossing, I did not 
discover. The next village was Falkland, a mile 
farther on. It is built around a green, on one side 
of which a big elm overshadows a pair of stocks 
and a low, long stone for the patient to sit upon, 
and at the side a tall one like a rude sculptured 
constable. A number of other great stones were 
distributed about the village, including two smooth 
and rounded ones, like flat loaves, on a cottage 
wall. The children and youths of the village were 
in the road, the children whipping tops of a carrot 
shape, the youths of seventeen or so playing at 
marbles. 

From this high land for since rising up away 
from Norton St. Philip we had always been over 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 

four hundred feet up, midway between the valleys 
of the Frome on the left and the Midford brook on 
the right we looked far on either side over valleys 
of mist. The hollow land on the right, which 
contained Radstock coalfield, many elm trees, and 
old overgrown mounds of coal refuse, was vague, 
and drowsed in the summer-like mist : the white 
smoke of the collieries drifted slowly in horizontal 
bands athwart the mist. The voices of lambs rose 
up, the songs of larks descended, out of the mist. 
Rooks cawed from field to field. Carts met us or 
passed us coming from Road, Freshford, Frome, 
and other places, to load up with coal from the 
store by the side of the road, which is joined to the 
distant colliery by a miniature railway, steep and 
straight. But what dominated the scene was a 
tall square tower on the road. Turner's Tower 
the map named it. Otherwise at a distance it 
might have been taken for an uncommon church 
tower or a huge chimney. The Other Man asked 
twenty questions about it of a carter whom we 
met as we came up to it ; and the carter, a round- 
eyed, round-nosed, round-voiced, genial man, an- 
swered them all. He said it had been built half a 
century ago by a gentleman farmer named Turner, 
as a rival to Lord Hylton's tower which we could 
see on our left at a wooded hilltop near Ammerdown 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

House. Originally it measured two hundred and 
thirty feet in height. Mr. Turner used to go up 
and down it, but it served no other purpose, and 
in course of time more than half fell down. The 
long hall at the bottom became a club-room, where 
miners used to drink more than other people thought 
good for them. Finally Lord Hylton bought it : 
the club ceased. About a hundred feet of the 
tower survives, pierced by a few pointed windows 
above and doors below, cheap and ecclesiastical in 
appearance. Attached to it is a block of cottages, 
and several others lie behind. 

We crossed the Frome and Radstock road, and 
raced down a straight mile that is lined on the left 
by the high park walls of Ammerdown House, and 
overhung by beeches. At the bottom only an in- 
ferior road continued our line, and that dwindled 
to a footpath. For the descent to Kilmersdon by 
this direct route is too precipitous for a modern 
road. We had to turn, therefore, sharp to the 
left along the road from Writhlington to Mells and 
Frome, and then curved round out of it to the 
right, and so under the railway down to Kilmers- 
don. Before entering the village the road bent 
alongside a steep wooded slope littered with ash 
poles. The bottom of the deep hollow is occupied 
by a church, an inn distinguished by a coat-of- 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 

arms, and the motto, " Tant que je puis" and many 
stone cottages strung about a stream and a parallelo- 
gram of roads. The church tower has three tiers of 
windows in it, and a blue-faced clock, whose gilt 
hands pointed to half-past three. There is a ven- 
erable and amusing menagerie of round-headed 
and long-headed gargoyles, with which a man 
could spend a lifetime unbored. Inside as well as 
outside the church the Jolliffe family, now repre- 
sented by Lord Hylton, predominates, amid the 
Easter scent of jonquil and daffodil. For example, 
much space is given to the following verses, in 
memory of Thomas Samuel Jolliffe, lord of the 
Hundreds of Kilmersdon and Wellow, a " high- 
minded and scrupulously honourable gentleman," 
" of Norman original," who died in 1824 at the 
age of seventy- eight, 

" A graceful mien, an elegant address, 
Looks which at once each winning charm express, 
A life where worth by wisdom polished shines, 
Where wisdom's self again by love refines : 
A wit that no licentious coarseness knows, 
The sense that unassuming candour shows, 
Reason by narrow principles unchecked, 
Slave to no party, bigot to no sect. 
Knowledge of various life, of learning too, 
Thence taste, thence truth, which will from taste ensue ; 
An humble though an elevated mind, 

A pride, its pleasure but to serve mankind : 
15 



226 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

If these esteem and admiration raise, 
Give true delight and gain unflattering praise, 
In one bright view the accomplished man we see, 
These graces all were thine and thou wert he." 

If human virtue, as it appears from these lines, 
lies buried at Kilmersdon, it has a pleasant resting- 
place pleasant partly on account of the neigh- 
bourhood of one Robert Twyford, a former Treasurer 
of St. Davids, and lord of this manor, who died in 
1776, aged sixty-one, 

" The sweetness of his temper made him happy 
in himself, and he employed his abilities, his for- 
tune, and authority in rendering others so ; and 
those many virtues which constituted his felicity 
in this life will, we trust, through the merits of 
Christ, make him completely happy to all eternity." 

It would be easier to invent Thomas Samuel 
Jolliffe than Robert Twyford. I should like to 
meet them both ; but in Jolliffe's case my chief 
motive would be curiosity to see how far his vir- 
tues were due to time, place, and the exigencies 
of rhyme. A dialogue between Jolliffe and the 
writer of his epitaph would be worth writing ; 
equally so between the Treasurer of St. Davids 
and his I can imagine the old man (I cannot 
imagine him a young man even in another world) 
beginning, 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 227 

" Sir, have you the felicity to know of a case 
where authority rendered any one happy save the 
exerciser of it ? I desire also, at your leisure, to 
know what you understand by the words, ' Com- 
pletely happy to all eternity.' With as much im- 
patience as is compatible with the sweetness of 
temper immortalized (to use a mortal phrase) by 
you at Kilmersdon, I await your answer. Will 
you drink tea ? But, alas ! I had forgotten that 
complete happiness in our present state has to be 
sustained without tea as well as without some of 
the other blessings of Pembrokeshire and Somer- 
set. . . ." 

" This is very sudden, Mr. Twyford. . . ." 

What the Other Man most liked in the whole 
church was the small, round-headed window stained 
in memory of Sybil Veitch. 

Out of Kilmersdon we walked uphill, looking 
back at the cottage groups in the hollow, the 
much-carved green slopes, and the high land we 
had traversed, all craggy-ridged in the mist. As 
steeply we descended to another streamlet, an- 
other hollow called Snail's Bottom, and the hamlet 
of Charlton and a rookery. Another climb of a 
mile, always in sight of a stout hilltop tower very 
dark against the sky, took us up to where the 
Wells road crosses a Roman road, the Fosse Way, 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

now the road from Bath to Shepton Mallet. We 
chose the Fosse Way in order to see both Shepton 
and Wells. Thus we went through Stratton-on-the- 
Fosse, a high roadside village that provides teas, 
and includes a Roman Catholic college and a new 
church attached to it that church whose tower 
we had been admiring so as it stood up against the 
sky. The flowering currant here was dressed in 
blossom. 

A mile farther on we were seven hundred and 
twenty feet up, almost on a level with the ridge of 
the Mendips, now close before us. Running from 
that point down to Nettlebridge and its rivulet, 
and walking up away from them, was the best thing 
in the day. The gradient of the hillside was too 
much for a modern road. The Fosse Way, there- 
fore, had been deserted and a new descent made, 
curving like an S : yet, even so, bold enough for a 
high speed to be attained before we got down to 
the " George " and the loose-clustered houses of 
Nettlebridge. The opposite ascent was also in an 
S. At the top of it we sat on a wall by the larches 
of Horridge Wood, and looked back and down. 
The valley was broad and destitute of trees. Gorse 
scrambled over its sides. Ducks fed across the turf 
at the bottom. Straight down the other side came 
the Fosse Way, denoted by its hedges, and round 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 

its crossing of the brook was gathered half of 
Nettlebridge. The rough, open valley, the run- 
ning water, the brookside cluster of stone cottages, 
reminded me of Pembrokeshire. There is no 
church. 

From that bleak and yet pleasant scene I turned 
with admiration to a farm-house on the other side 
of the road. It stood well above the road, and 
the stone wall enclosing its farm-yard followed the 
irregular crown of the steep slope. This plain 
stone house, darkened, I think, by a sycamore, 
and standing high, solitary, and gloomy, above 
Nettlebridge, seemed to me a house of houses. If 
I could draw, I would draw this and call it " A 
House." For it had all the spirit of a house, 
farm, and fortress in one, grim without bellicosity, 
tranquil, but not pampered. 

Presently, at Oak Hill, we were well up on the 
main northern slope of the Mendips. The " Oak 
Hill " inn, a good inn, hangs out its name on a 
horizontal bar, ending in a gilded oak leaf and 
acorn. I had lunch there once of the best possible 
fat bacon and bread fried in the fat, for a shilling ; 
and for nothing, the company of a citizen of Wells, 
a hearty, strong- voiced man, who read the Standard 
over a beef -steak, a pint of cider, and a good deal 
of cheese, and at intervals instructed me on the 



230 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

roads of the Mendips, the scenery, the celebrated 
places, and also praised his city and praised the 
stout of Oak Hill. Then he smacked his lips, 
pressed his bowler tight down on his head, and 
drove off towards Leigh upon Mendip. I was sorry 
not to have arrived at a better hour this time. 
The village is no more than the inn, the brewery, 
and a few cottages, and a shop or two, in one of 
which there was a pretty show of horse ornaments 
of brass among the saddlery. I almost counted 
these ornaments, crescents, stars, and bosses, as 
flowers of Spring, so clearly did I recall their May- 
day flashing in former years. It was darkening, or 
at least saddening, as we rode out of Oak Hill 
along the edge of a park which was notable for 
much-twisted, dark sycamores on roots accumu- 
lated above-ground like pedestals. At the far side 
gleamed the water, I imagine, of the brewery reser- 
voir. We reached the main ridge road of the 
Mendips soon after this, and crossed it at a point 
about nine hundred feet high. Shepton is five 
hundred feet lower, and but two miles distant ; so 
that we glided down somewhat like gods, having 
for domain an expanse that ended in the mass of 
Selwood Forest twelve miles to our left, level- 
topped, huge, and dim, under a cloudy sky. Un- 
prepared as I was, I expected to meet my end in 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 231 

the steep conclusion of this descent, which was 
through narrow streets ; and my brakes were bad. 
On the other hand, nothing troubled the god- 
likeness of my companion. In the rush at twenty- 
five miles an hour he sang, as if it had been a hymn 
of the new Paganism, a ribald song beginning, 

" As I was going to Salisbury upon a Summer's day." 

When he had done he shouted across at me, " I 
would rather have written that song than take 
Quebec." 

The Other Man would not stay in Shepton 
Mallet. He was very angry with Shepton. He 
called it a godless place, and I laughed, supposing 
he lamented the lack of Apollo or Dionysus or 
Aphrodite ; but he justified the word by relating 
his first visit to the church. The bell was ringing. 
It was five minutes to eleven on a Wednesday, a 
day of north-east wind, in February. With him 
entered a clergyman, and except for the old bell- 
ringer, the church was empty. When the bells 
ceased at eleven it was still empty. The clergy- 
man and the bell-ringer mumbled together, the old 
man saying, " You see, nobody has come." No 
service was held ; the Other Man and the bell- 
ringer were unworthy. The clergyman struggled 
up the road against the north-east wind. " And 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

look there," exclaimed the Other Man, as we 
turned out of the long, narrow street of shops into 
Church Lane, mediaeval-looking and narrower, " look 
there," he exclaimed, pointing to the remains of a 
blue election poster on a wall, where these words 
survived, 

" Foreigners tax us ; let us tax them." 
" Why," said he, " it is not even in the Bible," 
and with this he mounted and rode on toward 
Wells. The church tower was framed by the end 
walls of Church Lane, a handsome, tall tower with 
a pointed cap to it, and a worn statue of the Virgin 
and two other figures over the door. Immediately 
inside the door are tablets to seventeenth-century 
and eighteenth-century Barnards and Strodes of 
Down Hill, one bearing the inscription, 

" Urna tenet cineres 
Animam deus." 

The truth of it sounded like a copper gong in 
that twilight silence. I went on among the ashes. 
Two window ledges, one looking east, one west, 
form couches for stone effigies. That in the east- 
ward ledge, with his hand across the shield on his 
breast, looked as if happily sleeping ; the other 
had lost an arm, and was not happy. I re-entered 
the main street by a side street broad enough for 



TROWBRIDGE TO SHEPTON MALLET. 

a market-place. Here are some of the inns, and 
at the edge of the pavement a row of fixed wooden 
shambles. The market cross stands at the turn. 
It is a stone canopy, supported by six pillars in a 
circle, and one central pillar surrounded by two 
stone steps or seats, and the south side wears a 
dial, dated 1841. To know the yards of the " Red 
Lion," " George," and " Bunch of Grapes," and all 
the lanes and high- walled passages between Shepton 
and the prison, would be a task (for the first ten 
years of life) very cheerful to look back upon, and 
it would be difficult to invent anything more 
amusing and ingenious, as it would be impossible 
to invent anything prettier than the ivy, the ivy- 
leaved toadflax, and that kidney-leafed cressy white 
flower, growing on the walls of the passages. There 
are no public lights in Shepton, so that away from 
the shop lamps all now was dark in the side streets 
and edges of the town. The stone prison and all 
its apertures, like a great wasps' nest, was a pun- 
ishment to look at in the darkness. But night 
added grandeur to the many round arches of the 
viaduct on which the railway strides across the 
valley. At this, a sort of boundary to Shepton 
upon the east, I turned back, and ended the day 
at a temperance hotel. Its plain and not old- 
looking exterior, ordinary bar and public room, 



234 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

suggested nothing of the ancientness within. 1 
found a good fire and peace in the company of a 
man who studied Bradshaw. With the aid of 
maps I travelled my road again, dwelling chiefly 
on Tellisford, its white bridge over the Frome, the 
ruined mill and cottage, the round tower of Vaggs 
Hill Farm, and the distinct green valley which en- 
closed them, and after this, the Nettlebridge valley 
and the dark house above it. 






VIII. 

SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 

opened cold, dull, and windy in Shepton 
Mallet. After paying the usual bill of about 
four shillings for supper, bed, and breakfast, I tried 
to get into the churchyard again ; but it was locked, 
and I set out for Wells. The road led me past 
the principal edifice in Shepton on the west side, 
as the prison is on the east the Anglo-Bavarian 
Brewery, which is also the highest in position. It 
is a plain stone heap and a tubular chimney-stack 
of brick. A lover of size or of beer at any price 
might love it, but no one else. I rode from it in 
whirls of dust down to B owlish and into the valley 
of the Sheppey. To within a mile of Wells I was 
to have this little river always with me and several 
times under me. Telegraph posts also accompanied 
the road. It was a delightful exit ; the brewery 
was behind me, a rookery before me hi the beech 
trees of the outskirts. On both hands grassy 
banks rose up steeply. The left one, when the 



236 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

rookery was passed, was topped with single thorn 
trees, and pigs and chickens did their duty and 
their pleasure among the pollard ashes below. Most 
of the cottages of Bowlish are on the other side, 
their gardens reaching down in front of them to 
the stream, their straggling orchards of crooked 
apple trees behind within walls of ivy-covered 
stone. Where Bowlish becomes Darshill, the cot- 
tages are concentrated round a big square silk-mill 
and its mill pond beside the road. Up in the high 
windows could be seen the backs or faces of girls 
at work. All this is on the right, at the foot of 
the slope. The left bank being steeper, is either 
clothed in a wood of ivied oaks, or its ridgy turf 
and scattering of elms and ash trees are seldom 
interrupted by houses. A sewage farm and a farm- 
house ruined by it take up part of the lower slope 
for some way past the silk-mill : a wood of oak and 
pine invades them irregularly from above. Then 
on both hands the valley does without houses. The 
left side is a low, steep thicket rising from the 
stream, which spreads out here into a sedgy pool 
before a weir, and was at this moment bordered 
by sheaves of silver-catkined sallow, fresh-cut. 
But the right side became high and precipitous, 
mostly bare at first, then hanging before me a rocky 
barrier thinly populated by oaks. This compelled 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 237 

the road to twist round it in a shadowy trough. 
In fact, so much has the road to twist that a trav- 
eller coming from the other direction would pre- 
pare himself for scaling the barrier, not dreaming 
that he could slink in comfort round that wild 
obstacle. 

Out of this crooked coomb I emerged into dust 
whirls and sunshine. The village of Crosscombe was 
but a little way ahead, a long village of old stone 
cottages and slightly larger houses, and two mills 
pounding away. The river running among stones 
sounds all through it. At the bridge, where it 
foams over the five steps of a weir, a drinking foun- 
tain is somewhat complicated by the inscription : 
" If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldest have 
asked of Him, and He would have given thee living 
water." At the " Rose and Crown," outside which 
is a cross, or rather a knobbed pillar surmounting 
some worn steps, I branched up a steep lane to St. 
Mary's Church. It has a spire instead of a tower, 
and an image of the Virgin at the base of it. Its 
broad- tailed weather- cock flashed so in the sun as 
to be all but invisible. The grass was at its green- 
est, the daisies at their whitest, in the churchyard, 
under the black cypress wedges, where lies some- 
thing or other of many a Chedzoy, Perry, Hare, 
Hodges, and Pike. The upper side is bounded by 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

a good ancient wall, cloaked in ivy and tufted with 
yellow wallflower. Another chiffchaff was singing 
here. While I was inside the building, a girl hung 
about, rattling the keys expectantly (but no more 
persuasively than the Titanic roadsters told theii 
tale at Erlestoke), while I walked among the dark 
pews and choir stalls of carven oak, and looked at 
the tablets of the Hares and Pippets, great clothiers 
of this country, and the brass of Mr. William Bisse, 
and his nine daughters and nine sons, and Mrs. 
Bisse, in the costume of 1625. The church has a 
substantial business flavour belonging to the days 
when it was so little known as to be beyond dis- 
pute that blessed are the rich, for they do in- 
herit this world and probably the next. A few 
yards higher up the slope from the church is a 
Baptist chapel and a cottage in one, evidently 
adapted with small skill or expense from a church 
building older than the sect. Nothing divided the 
vegetable garden of the cottage from the grave- 
yard of the chapel, and it looked as if the people 
of Crosscombe were ill content to raise merely 
violets from the ashes of their friends. 

The road climbed away from Crosscombe up the 
left wall of the valley, which is given a mountainous 
expression by the naked rock protruding both at 
the ridge and on the slope of Dulcote Hill. The 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 239 

river runs parallel on the right beneath, and along 
its farther bank the church and cottages of Binder 
in a string ; and the sole noise arising from Binder 
was that of rooks. At a turning overshadowed by 
trees, at Bulcote, a path travels straight through 
green meadows to Wells, and to the three towers 
of the cathedral at the foot of a horizontal terrace- 
like spur of oak, pine, and beech, that juts out from 
the main line of Mendip leftwards or southwards. 
The river, which follows that main line up to this 
spot, now quits it, and follows the receding left wall 
of its valley, and consequently my road had its 
company no longer. My way lay upward and over 
the spur. The white footpath was to be seen going 
comfortably below on the left through parklike 
meadows, and beyond it, the pudding-shaped Hay 
Hill and Ben Knowle Hill, and the misty dome of 
Glastonbury Tor farther off. 

By ten o'clock I was in the cathedral, and saw 
the painted dwarf up on the wall kick the bell ten 
times with his heel, and the knights race round 
and round opposite ways, clashing together ten 
times, while their attendant squires rode in silence ; 
and I heard the remote, monotonous priest's voice 
in the Benedicite, and the deep and the high re- 
sponses of men and boys. Up there in the tran- 
septs and choir chapels are many rich tombs, and 



240 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

recumbent figures overarched by stone fretwork ; 
but the first and lasting impression is of the clean 
spaciousness of the aisles and nave, clear of all 
tombs and tablets. 

But clear and clean as was the cathedral, the 
outer air was clearer and cleaner. The oblong 
green, walled in on three sides by homely houses, 
and by the rich towered west front on the fourth, 
echoed gently with the typical cathedral music, 
that of the mowing-machine, destroying grass and 
daisies innumerable, with a tone which the sun 
made like a grasshopper's, not out of harmony 
with the song of a chaffinch asseverating whatever 
it is he asseverates from one of the bordering lime 
trees. The market-place, too, was warm ; the 
yellowish and grayish and bluish walls, the windows 
of all shapes and all sizes, and the water of the 
central fountain, answered the sun. 

Two gateways lead out of one side of the market- 
place to the cathedral and the palace grounds. 
Taking the right-hand one, I came to the palace, 
and the moat that flows along one side, between 
a high wall climbed by fruit trees and ivy, and a 
walk lined with old pollard elms. Rooks inhabited 
the elm tops, and swans the water. Rooks are 
essential to a cathedral anywhere, but Wells is 
perfected by swans. On the warm palace roof 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 241 

behind the wall a roof smouldering mellow in the 
sun pigeons lay still ecclesiastically. Sometimes 
one cooed sleepily, as if to seal it canonical that 
silence is better; the rooks cawed; the water 
foamed down into the moat at one end between 
bowery walls. Away from the cathedral on that 
side to the foot of the Mendips expanded low, 
green country. I walked along the moat into the 
Shepton road, and turning to the left, and passing 
many discreet, decent, quiet houses such as are 
produced by cathedrals, and to the left again, so 
made a circuit of the cathedral and its high tufted 
walls and holly trees, back to the market-place. 

It was difficult to know what to do in all this 
somewhat foreign tranquillity. I actually entered 
an old furniture shop, and looked over a number of 
second-hand books, Spectators, sernions that were 
dead, theology that had never been alive, recent 
novels preparing for their last sleep, books about 
Wells, " Clarissa Harlowe," Mr. Le Gallienne's 
"English Poems," "The Marvels of the Polar 
World," and hundreds of others. A cat slept in 
the sun amongst them, curled superbly, as if she 
had to see justice done to the soporific powers of the 
cathedral city and the books that nobody wanted. 
For the sake of appearances, I bought " The History 
of Prince Lee Boo " for twopence. I thought to 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

read this book over my lunch, but there was better 
provender. The restaurant was full of farmers, 
district councillors and their relatives, and several 
school children. The loudest voice, the longest 
tongue, and the face best worth looking at, be- 
longed to a girl. She was a tomboy of fifteen, 
black-haired, pale, strong-featured, with bold 
though not very bright eyes. Her companion was 
a boy perhaps a little younger than herself, and 
she was talking in a quick, decided manner. 

" I like a girl that sticks to a chap," she began 
suddenly. 

The boy mumbled something. She looked sharply 
at him, as if to make sure that he did exist, though 
he had not the gift of speech ; then directed her 
eyes out into the street. Having been silent for 
half a minute, she stood up, pressing her face to 
the window to see better, and exclaimed, 

" Look, look ! There's lovely hair." 

The boy got up obediently. 

44 There's lovely hair," she repeated, indicating 
some one passing ; " she isn't good-looking to it, 
but it is lovely now. Look ! isn't it ? " 

The boy, I think, agreed before sitting down. 
What impressed him most was the girl's frank 
enthusiasm. She remained standing and looking 
out. But in a moment something else had pleased 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 

her. She beckoned to the boy, still with her eyes 
on the street, and said, 

" There's a nice little boy." As she said this she 
tapped the glass and smiled animatedly. So in 
half a minute up came another boy of about the 
same age as the first, and took a seat at the next 
table, smiling but not speaking. Only when he 
had half eaten a cake did he begin to talk casually 
about what had been passing at school how an 
unpopular master had been ragged, but dared not 
complain, though nobody did any work. The girl 
listened intently, but when he had done, merely 
asked, 

" Have you ever been caned ? " 

" Lots of times," he answered. 

" Have you ? " she asked the boy at her own 
table. 

" Once," he laughed. 

" Have you ? " she mused. " I haven't. My 
mother told them they were to cane me at one 
school, and they did try once, but I never went 
back again after." ... On finishing her lunch, 
she got up and strode out of the room silently, with- 
out a farewell. She was shorter than I had guessed, 
but more unforgettable than Prince Lee Boo. I 
put the book away unopened. Even what passes 
for a good book is troublesome to read after a few 



244 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

days out of doors, and the highest power of most 
of them is to convey an invitation to sleep. And 
yet I thought of one writer at Wells, and that was 
Mr. W. H. Hudson, who has written of it more 
than once. He says that it is the only city where 
the green woodpecker is to be heard. It comes 
into his new book, '" Adventures among Birds," 
because it was here that he first satisfied his wish 
to be in a belfry during the bell-ringing and hear 
" a symphony from the days of the giants, com- 
posed (when insane) by a giant Tschaikovsky to 
be performed on i instruments of unknown form ' 
and gigantic size." But the book is really all 
about birds and his journeys in search of them, 
chiefly in the southern half of England. It is one 
of his best country books. It is, in fact, the best 
book entirely about birds that is known to me. 
The naturalist may hesitate to admit it, though 
he knows that no such descriptions of birds' songs 
and calls are to be found elsewhere, and he cannot 
deny that no other pages reveal English birds in 
a wild state so vividly, so happily, so beautifully. 
Mr. Hudson is in no need of recommendation 
among naturalists. This particular claim of his 
is mentioned only in order to impress a class of 
readers who might confuse him with the fancy 
dramatic naturalists, and the other class who will 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIBGWATER. 245 

appreciate the substantial miracle of a naturalist 
and an imaginative artist in one and in harmony. 

Were men to disappear they might be recon- 
structed from the Bible and the Russian novelists ; 
and, to put it briefly, Mr. Hudson so writes of birds 
that if ever, in spite of his practical work, his 
warnings and indignant scorn, they should cease 
to exist, and should leave us to ourselves on a 
benighted planet, we should have to learn from 
him what birds were. 

Many people, even " lovers of Nature," would be 
inclined to look for small beer in a book with the 
title of " Adventures among Birds." If they are 
ignorant of Mr. Hudson's writings, they are not to 
blame, since bird books are, as a rule, small beer. 
Most writers condescend to birds or have not the 
genius to keep them alive in print, whether or not 
they have the eternal desire " to convey to others," 
as Mr. Hudson says, " some faint sense or sugges- 
tion of the wonder and delight which may be found 
in Nature." He does not condescend to birds, 
" these loveliest of our fellow-beings," as he calls 
them, " these which give greatest beauty and lustre 
to the world." He travels " from county to county 
viewing many towns and villages, conversing with 
persons of all ages and conditions," and when these 
persons are his theme he writes like a master, like 



246 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

an old master perhaps, as everybody knows, who 
has read his " Green Mansions," " The Purple 
Land," and " South American Sketches." It 
might, therefore, be taken for granted that such an 
artist would not be likely to handle birds unless 
he could do so with the same reality and vitality as 
men. And this is what he does. 

His chief pleasure from his childhood on the 
Pampas has been in wild birds ; he has delighted 
in their voices above all sounds. " Relations," he 
calls the birds, " with knowing, emotional, and 
thinking brains like ours in their heads, and with 
senses like ours, only brighter. Their beauty and 
grace so much beyond ours, and their faculty of 
flight which enables them to return to us each 
year from such remote, outlandish places, their 
winged, swift souls in winged bodies, do not make 
them uncanny, but only fairy-like." 

Only the book itself can persuade the reader of 
the extraordinary love and knowledge of birds which 
have thus been nourished. If I were to quote the 
passage where he speaks of his old desire to pursue 
wild birds over many lands, " to follow knowledge 
like a sinking star, to be and to know much until 
I became a name for always wandering with a 
hungry heart ; " or where he declares that the 
golden oriole's clear whistle was more to him 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 247 

" than the sight of towns, villages, castles, ruins, 
and cathedrals, and more than adventures among 
the people ; " or where he calls being " present, in a 
sense invisible " with the aid of silence and bin- 
oculars " in the midst of the domestic circle of 
beings of a different order, another world than 
ours," nearly every one would probably pronounce 
him an extravagant sentimentalist, a fanatic, or, 
worst of all, an exaggerator. He is none of these. 
When he writes of his first and only pet bird and 
its escapes, there is no pettiness or mere prettiness : 
it is not on the human scale, yet it is equal to a 
story of gods or men. He is an artist, with a singu- 
lar power of sympathizing with wild life, especially 
that of birds. Their slender or full throated songs, 
the " great chorus of wild, ringing, jubilant cries," 
when " the giant crane that hath a trumpet sound " 
assembles, the South American crested screamers 
counting the hours " when at intervals during the 
night they all burst out singing like one bird, and 
the powerful ringing voices of the incalculable 
multitude produce an effect as of tens of thousands 
of great chiming bells, and the listener is shaken by 
the tempest of sound, and the earth itself appears 
to tremble beneath him ; " the colouring of birds, 
brilliant or delicate, their soaring or manoeuvring 
or straight purposed flight, their games and battles, 



248 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

all their joyous, or fierce, passionate, and agitated 
cries and motions, delight him at least as much as 
music delights its most sensitive and experienced 
lovers. At sight of the pheasant he cannot help 
loving it, much as he hates the havoc of which 
it is the cause. 

There is a very large variety in his enjoyment. 
It is exquisite and it is vigorous ; it is tender and 
at times almost superhuman in grimness. It is a 
satisfaction of his senses, of his curious intelligence, 
and of his highest nature. The green eggs of the 
little bittern thrill him " like some shining super- 
natural thing or some heavenly melody." He is 
cheerful when his binoculars are bringing him close to 
birds " at their little games " a kestrel being turned 
off by starlings, a heron alighting on another heron's 
back, a band of starlings detaching themselves from 
their flock to join some wild geese going at right 
angles to their course ; for " the playful spirit is 
universal among them." The songs of blackbird, 
nightingale, thrush, and marsh warbler delight 
him, and yet at other times the loss of the soaring 
species, eagles and kites, oppresses him, and he 
speaks contemptuously of " miles on miles of wood, 
millions of ancient noble trees, a haunt of little 
dicky birds and tame pheasants." His vision of 
the Somerset of the lake-dwellers, of " the paradise 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 249 

of birds in its reedy inland sea, its lake of Athelney," 
makes a feast for the eyes and ears. Moreover, he 
is never a mere bird man, and the result of this 
variety of interest and pleasure on the part of a 
man of Mr. Hudson's imagination, culture, and 
experience, is that while his birds are intensely 
alive in many different ways, and always intensely 
birdlike, presenting a loveliness beyond that of 
idealized or supernaturalized women and children, 
yet at the same time their humanity was never 
before so apparent. The skylark is to him both 
bird and spirit, and one proof of the intense reality 
of his love is his ease in passing, as he does in 
several places, out of this world into a mythic, 
visionary, or very ancient world. This also is a proof 
of the powers of his style. At first sight, at least 
to the novice who is beginning to distinguish be- 
tween styles without discriminating, Mr. Hudson's 
is merely a rather exceptionally unstudied English, 
perhaps a little old-fashioned. Nothing could be 
farther from the truth. It is, in fact, a combination, 
as curious as it is ripe and profound, of the eloquent 
and the colloquial, now the one, now the other, 
predominating in a variety of shades which make it 
wonderfully expressive for purposes of narrative 
and of every species of description precise, humor- 
ous, rapturous, and sublime. And not the least 



250 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

reason of its power is that it never paints a bird 
without showing the hand and the heart that 
paints it. It reveals the author in the presence 
of birds just as much as birds in the presence, 
visible or invisible, of the author. The series of 
his books is now a long one, not enough, certainly, 
yet a feast, and the last is among the three or four 
which we shall remember and re-read most often. 

I left Wells by a road passing the South- Western 
Railway station, and admired the grass island part- 
ing the roads to the passengers' and the goods' 
entrances. The curved edge of the turf was as 
clean as that of the most select lawn ; the grass 
looked as if it had never been trodden. I now 
rode close to Hay Hill on my right a dull, isolated 
heave of earth, striped downwards by hedges so 
as to resemble a country umbrella and its ribs. 
Motor cars overtook me. At Coxley Pound I 
overtook a peat-seller's cart. The air was per- 
fumed with something like willow-plait which I 
did not identify. The wind was light, but blew 
from behind me, and was strong enough to strip 
the dead ivy leaves from an ash tree, but not to 
stop the tortoiseshell butterfly sauntering against it. 

For three miles I was in the flat green land of 
Queen's Sedgemoor, drained by straight sedgy 
watercourses, along which grow lines of elm, willow, 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 251 

or pine. Glastonbury Tor mounted up out of the 
flat before me, like a huge tumulus, almost bare, 
but tipped by St. Michael's tower. Soon the 
ground began to rise on my left, and the crooked 
apple orchards of Avalon came down to the road- 
side, their turf starred by innumerable daisies and 
gilt celandines. Winding round the base of the 
Tor, I rode into Glastonbury, and down its broad, 
straight hill past St. John the Baptist Church 
and the notoriously mediaeval " Pilgrim's Inn," and 
many pastry cooks. Another peat cart was going 
down the street. The church stopped me because 
of its tower and the grass and daisies and half-dozen 
comfortable box tombs of its churchyard, irregularly 
placed and not quite upright. One of the tombs 
advertised in plain lettering the fact that John 
Down, the occupant, who died in 1829 at the age 
of eighty- three, had " for more than sixty years 
owned the abbey." He owned the abbey, nothing 
more ; at least his friends and relatives were con- 
tent to introduce him to posterity as the man who 
" for more than sixty years owned the abbey." 
If the dead were permitted to own anything here 
below, doubtless he would own it still. Outside 
the railings two boys were doing the cleverest thing 
I saw on this journey. They were keeping a whip- 
top, and that a carrot- shaped one, spinning by 



252 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

kicking it in turns. Which was an accomplish- 
ment more worthy of being commemorated on a 
tombstone than the fact that you owned Glaston- 
bury Abbey. The interior of the church is made 
equally broad at both ends by the lack of screen or 
of any division of the chancel. It is notable also 
for a marble monument in the south-west corner, 
retaining the last of its pale blue and rose colour- 
ing. A high chest, carved with camels, forms the 
resting-place for a marble man with a head like 
Dante's, wearing a rosary over his long robes. 

At first I thought I should not see more of the 
abbey than can be seen from the road the circular 
abbot's kitchen with pointed cap, and the broken 
ranges of majestic tall arches that guide the eye to 
the shops and dwellings of Glastonbury. While 
I was buying a postcard the woman of the shop 
reminded me of Joseph of Arimathea's thorn, and 
how it blossomed at Christmas. " Did you ever 
see it blossoming at Christmas ? " I asked. " Once," 
she said, and she told me how the first winter she 
spent in Glastonbury was a very mild one, and she 
went out with her brothers for a walk on Christmas 
day in the afternoon. She remembered that they 
wore no coats. And they saw blossom on the holy 
thorn. After all, I did go through the turnstile to 
see the abbey. The high pointed arches were mag- 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 

nificent, the turf under them perfect. The elms stood 
among the ruins like noble savages among Greeks. 
The orchards hard by made me wish that they 
were blossoming. But excavations had been go- 
ing on ; clay was piled up and cracking in the sun, 
and there were tin sheds and scaffolding. I am 
not an archaeologist, and I left it. As I was ap- 
proaching the turnstile an old hawthorn within 
a few yards of it, against a south wall, drew my 
attention. For it was covered with young green 
leaves and with bright crimson berries almost as 
numerous. Going up to look more closely, I saw 
what was more wonderful Blossom. Not one 
flower, nor one spray only, but several sprays. I 
had not up till now seen even blackthorn flowers, 
though towards the end of February I had heard of 
hawthorn flowering near Bradford. As this had 
not been picked, I conceitedly drew the conclusion 
that it had not been observed. Perhaps its con- 
spicuousness had saved it. It was Lady Day. I 
had found the Spring in that bush of green, white, 
and crimson. So warm and bright was the sun, 
and so blue the sky, and so white the clouds, that 
not for a moment did the possibility of Winter 
returning cross my mind. 

Pleasure at finding the May sent me up Weary- 
all Hill, instead of along the customary road straight 



254 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

out of Glastonbury. The hill projects from the 
earth like a ship a mile long, whose stern is buried 
in the town, its prow uplifted westward towards 
Bridgwater ; and the road took me up as on a 
slanting deck, until I saw Glastonbury entire below 
me, all red-tiled except the ruins and the towers 
of St. John and St. Benedict. At the western edge 
the town's two red gasometers stood among blos- 
soming plum trees, and beyond that spread the 
flat land. The Quantocks, fifteen miles distant, 
formed but a plain wall, wooded and flat-topped, 
on the horizon northward. 

Instead of continuing up the broad green deck 
of Wearyall Hill, I went along the west flank of 
it by road, descending through meadows and apple 
trees to the flat land. I crossed the river Brue 
immediately by Pomparles bridge, and in half a 
mile was in the town of Street. It is a mostly new 
conglomeration of houses dominated by the chim- 
ney and the squat tower of Clark's Boot Factory ; 
and since it is both flat and riverless, it sprawls 
about with a dullness approaching the sordid. A 
rough-barked elm tree, a hundred and fifty years 
old, slung on a timber carriage outside the " Street 
Inn," was the chief sign of Spring here after the 
dust. 

I was very glad to see the flat slowly swelling 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 255 

up at last to the long ridge of the Polden Hills, 
which was soon to carry my road. Walton, the 
next village, is a winding hamlet of thatched 
cottages, pink, yellow, and stone- coloured, alter- 
nating with gardens, plums in blossom, the vicar- 
age trees and shrubbery, and the green yard of a 
quaint apsidal farmhouse, once the parsonage. 
It has a flagged pavement on the right, trodden 
solely by a policeman. The road was in the power 
of a steam-roller and its merry men, but the fowls 
of the old parsonage presented the only immediate 
signs of life. The plum blossom and new green 
leaves in hedge and border were spotless at Walton, 
its wallflowers very sweet on the untroubled air. 

Thus I came clear of Street and the flat land. 
Outside of Walton I was in a country consisting of 
ups and downs rather than undulations, a grass 
country mainly, with orchards and hedges, elms 
in the hedges, pigs and sheep in the orchards. 
After the flat it was blessed. Perhaps it was not 
beautiful. It had character, but without easily 
definable features, and it fell an easy victim to 
such an accident as the absurdly dull stucco 
" Albion " inn, which appeared to have been 
designed for Pevensey or Croydon. Nevertheless, 
a sloping orchard of bowed apple trees sweeping the 
grass with their long, arched branches, and the smell 



256 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

of peat smoke, counterbalanced the " Albion." At 
Ashcott, where a man is free to choose between 
very good water from a fountain on the right and 
the coloured drinks of the " Bell " opposite, I was 
two hundred feet up. I went into the church 
a delightful place for a retired deity and enjoyed 
this inscription on an oval tablet of marble, behind 
the pulpit, relating to the " remains " of Joseph 
Toms, who died in 1807, at the age of sixteen, 

" This youth was an apprentice to a grocer in Bristol, and 
as long as health permitted proved that inclination no less 
than duty prompted the union of strict integrity with industry. 
During his illness unto death he was calm, resigned, and full 
of hope. His late master has erected this small tribute to 
perpetuate the worth of so promising a character." 

My road ran along the ridge of the Poldens, and, 
after Ashcott, touched but a solitary house or two. 
One set of villages lay to the south or left, just 
above the levels of Sedgemoor, but below the hills. 
Another set lay below to the north, each with its 
attendant level Shapwick Heath, Catcott Heath, 
Edington Heath, Chilton Moor, Woolavington 
Level beyond. Shapwick I turned aside to visit. 
The village is scattered along a parallelogram of 
roads and cross lanes. An old manor house, low 
and screened by cedars, stands apart. The church, 
of clean, rough stone, with a central tower, is in a 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 257 

cedared green space at a corner, having roads on 
two sides, a farm and an apple orchard on the 
others ; and trees have supplanted cottages on one 
roadside. A flagged path leads among the tomb- 
stones to the church door. One of the inscriptions 
that caught my eye was that in memory of Joe 
Whitcombe, fifty years a groom and factotum in 
the Strangways family at the manor house, who 
died at the age of sixty-four in 1892. Along with 
these facts are the lines, 

" An orchard in bloom in the sunny spring 
To me is a wondrous lovely thing." 

Very different from Old Joe's are the epitaphs inside 
the church, the work largely, I believe, of a former 
vicar, G.H.Templer, who built the big blank vicarage 
with its square, high-walled fruit garden and double 
range of stables, and planted cedars and cork 
trees. The epitaph of Lieut.-Col. Isaac Easton of 
the East India Company is a fair sample of this 
practically imperishable prose, 

" Through all the gradations of military duty, his love of 
Enterprise, his Valour, his Prudence, and Humanity, obtained 
the admiration and affection of his fellow-soldiers with the 
confidence and commendation of that government which knew 
as well to distinguish as to reward real merit. In the more 
familiar walks of private life, all who knew him were eager to 

approve and to applaud the brilliant energy of his mind and 

17 



258 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

the polished affability of his manners. His heart glowed with 
al Ithe sensibility which forms the genuine source of real good- 
ness and greatness, with gratitude to his benefactor, with 
generosity to his friend, and liberality to mankind. The 
sudden loss of so many virtues and so many amiable qualities, 
who that enjoyed his confidence or shared his conviviality 
can recall without a sigh or a tear ? With a constitution im- 
paired by the severities of unremitted service and the rigours 
of an oppressive climate, he returned, to the fond hope of en- 
joying on his native soil the well-earned recompense of his 
honourable labours, when a premature death hurried him to 
his grave in 1780, at the age of 4b." 

Templer's position in prose is the same as that 
of Jolliffe's encomiast in verse at Kilmersdon. The 
relation of his work to life at Shapwick in the 
eighteenth century is about as close as that of the 
" Arcadia " to Sidney's age. More telling are the 
inscriptions of two men named Cator and Graham, 
who were killed during a fight with a French 
privateer in the Bay of Bengal in October 1800. 
The Bulls and Strangways have big slabs ; the 
Bulls adding the blue and crimson of their arms to 
the chancel. Not less silent than the church was 
the street leading down towards the manor house 
and railway station, silent except for a transitory 
twitter of goldfinches. The one shop had its blinds 
drawn in honour of early closing day. It is a 
peaceful neighbourhood, where every one brews his 
own cider and burns the black or the inflammable 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 259 

ruddy peat from the moor. A corner where there 
are a beautiful chestnut and some waste grass 
provides a camping ground for gypsies from Salis- 
bury and elsewhere ; and it seemed fitting that men 
and boys should spend their idle hours in the lane 
at marbles. It is famous, if at all, since the battle 
of Sedgemoor, for giving a home to F. R. Havergal 
and an occasional resting-place to Churton Collins. 

Very still, silvery, and silent was the by-road by 
which I rode up through ploughland back again to 
the ridge. Lest I had missed anything, I turned 
away from my destination for a mile towards 
Ashcott. I was for most of the distance in Loxley 
Wood. Primroses, as far as I could see, clustered 
thick round the felled oaks, the fagot heaps, and 
the tufts of last year's growth on the stoles. A few 
stones on the right inside the wood are called 
Swayne's Jumps, and it is related that a prisoner 
of the name, whether in Monmouth's or Cromwell's 
time I forget, escaped by means of some tremendous 
jumps there, taken when he was pretending to show 
his captors how they ought to jump. 

Even without the wood this road was beautiful. 
For it was bordered for some way on the left by a 
broad grass strip planted with oaks, and not common 
oaks, but trees all based on small moss-gilded 
pedestals of their own roots above the earth, their 



260 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

bark and branches silver, their main limbs velveted 
with moss and plumed with polypody ferns. More- 
over, they have filled the few gaps with young trees. 
On the right, after coming to the end of Loxley 
Wood and before the signpost of Greinton, I saw 
a rough waste strip of uneven breadth, partly 
overgrown by bushes from the hedge and by pine 
trees. Here ran the rank of telegraph posts, and 
in the grass were remains of fires. A hundred yards 
later, and as far as the turning of Shapwick, the 
waste was quite a little rushy common fed by 
horses. 

Turning once more westward and again piercing 
Loxley Wood, the wayside strip there consecrated 
to the oak avenue ceased, but that it had once been 
prolonged far along the road was plain, whether it 
had been swallowed up by wood or meadow, or 
hedged off and planted with larches or apple trees, 
or ploughed up, or usurped by cottage and garden. 
Shorn thus, the road travels four miles of a ridge 
as straight and sharp as the Hog's Back. It was 
delicious easy riding, with no company but that of 
a linnet muttering sweetly in the new-green larches, 
and a blackbird or two hurrying and spluttering 
under the hedge. 

All the country on either hand was subject to my 
eyes. Before me the red disc of the sun was low, 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 261 

its nether half obliterated by a long, misty cloud. 
The levels on my right, and their dark, moss-like 
corrugations, were misted over, not so densely that 
a white river of train smoke could not be seen 
flowing through it ; and Brent Knoll far off towered 
over it like an islet of crag, dark and distinct ; nor 
was the prostrate mass of Brean Down invisible 
on the seaward side of Brent Knoll. Not a sound 
emerged from that side beyond the bleat of a few 
lambs. On the left was the misty country of 
Athelney, and a solitary dark tower raised well above 
the midst of the level. The most delicate scene of 
all my journey was nearer. The Poldens have 
on this side several foothills, and at the turning to 
Righton's Grave one of these confronted me ; I had 
it in full view for a mile and could hardly look at 
anything else. This was Ball Hill. It is a smooth 
island lifted up out of an ever so faintly undulating 
land of hedged meadows and sparse elm trees. It 
rose very gradually, parallel to my road and about 
half a mile from it, so as to make a long, nascent 
curve, up to a comb of trees ; and its flank was 
divided downwards and lengthwise amongst rosy 
ploughland and pale green corn in large hedgeless 
squares and oblongs, beautifully contrasted in 
size and colour. Next to Ball Hill is another one, 
as distinct, but steeper and wooded, called Pendon 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Hill. In the dip between the two lay the church 
tower and cottages of Stawell, and a dim orchard 
rose behind them with trees that were like smoke. 
Though the lines of these hills and their decorated 
slopes are definitely beautiful, during the dusk on 
that silver road in the first Spring innocence they 
were a miraculous birth, to match the Spring 
innocence and the tranquillity of the dusk as I 
slid quietly on that road of silver. 

Then came two shams. The first was a towered 
residence close to the road, with Gothic features. 
The second, black against the sky, three miles 
ahead, was a tower and many ruinous arches on 
top of the wooded hill at Knowle. It is hard to show 
how not very experienced eyes begin to suspect 
a sham of this sort. But they did, and yet were 
able to dally a little with the kind of feeling which 
the real thing would have produced. For, when I 
saw the ruins most clearly, at the turn to Woolaving- 
ton, Highbridge, and Burnham, twilight was half 
spent. 

The road was descending. Bridgwater's tower, 
spire, and chimneys, and smoke mingling with trees, 
were visible down on the left, and past them the 
dim Quantocks fading down to the sea. I was soon 
at the level of the railway, and Bawdrip behind 
the embankment showed me a pretty jumble of 



SHEPTON MALLET TO BRIDGWATER. 263 

roofs, chimneys, a church tower, and a green thorn 
tree over the rim. The high slope of Knowle and 
its rookery beeches where the ruin is hung upon 
the right very darkly over the small pale " Knowle 
Inn " and the white scattered blackthorn blossom 
and myself slipping by. The road went on to Puriton 
and Pawlett, and down it under the trees two lovers 
were walking slowly, but opposite Knowle I had to 
turn sharp to the left. Those green trees in the last 
of the twilight seemed exceptionally benign. After 
the turning I immediately crossed the deep-cut 
King's Sedgemoor dram with a flowering orchard 
betwixt it and the road I had left and in a few 
yards the single line of the Somerset and Dorset 
Joint Railway. Two miles of flat field and white- 
painted orchard, and I was in a street of flat, dull, 
brick cottages and foul smoke, but possessing an 
extraordinarily haughty white hart chained over 
an inn porch of that name. Then the river Parrett ; 
and a dark ship drawn up under the line of tall inns 
and stores with glimmering windows. I crossed the 
bridge and walked up Corn Hill between the shops 
to where the roads fork, one for Taunton, one 
for Minehead, to left and right of Robert Blake's 
statue and the pillared dome of the market. I 
took the Minehead road, the right-hand one, past 
the banks, the post office, the " Royal Clarence " 



264 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 



hotel, and by half-past seven I was eating supper, 
listening to children outside in the still, dark 
street, laughing, chattering, teasing, disputing. I 
read a page or two of the " History of Prince Lee 
Boo," and fell asleep. 



IX. 

BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 

THE night at Bridgwater was still. I heard 
little after ten except the clear deep bells of 
St. Mary's telling the quarters. They woke me with 
the first light, and I was glad to be out of the 
hotel early because the three other guests (I think, 
commercial travellers) not only did not talk 
which may have been a blessing but took no 
notice of " Good evening " or " Good morning." 
It was a clean, new, and unfriendly place, that 
caused a sensation as of having slept in linoleum. 
The charge for supper, bed, and breakfast was the 
usual one, a few pence over four shillings. 

I wandered about the western half of the town. 
This being built on a slight hill above the river, was 
older and better worth looking at than the flat 
eastern half, though it was lacking in trees, as 
may be guessed from the fact that some rooks had 
had to nest in horse-chestnut trees, which they avoid 



266 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

if possible. Castle Street is the pleasantest in the 
town, a wide, straight old street of three- storey 
brick houses, rising almost imperceptibly away 
from the quay. The houses, all private, have round- 
topped windows and are flat-fronted, except for 
two at the bottom which have bays. Across the 
upper end a big, sunlit, ivied house, taller than the 
others and of mellower brick, with a chestnut tree, 
projects somewhat, and on the pavement below it 
is a red pillar box. 

The quay itself is good enough to recall Bideford. 
The river is straight for a distance, and separated 
from the quayside buildings only by the roadway. 
These buildings, ship-brokers' and contractors', 
port authority's and customs and excise offices, a 
steam sawmill, and the " Fountain," " Dolphin," 
and " King's Head," are plain enough, mostly with 
tall flat fronts with scant lettering and no decora- 
tion, all in a block, looking over at the low level of 
the Castle Field north-eastward, where cattle 
grazed in the neighbourhood of chimney-stacks and 
railway signals. The Arthur was waiting for a 
cargo. The Emma was unloading coal. But for 
the rest the quay was quiet, and a long greyhound 
lay stretched out across the roadway, every inch of 
him content in the warm sun. 

The next best thing to the quay was the broad 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 267 

sandstone Church of St. Mary and its tall spire, 
standing on a daisied, cropped turf among thorns 
and a few tombstones, and walled in on three 
sides by houses, shops, and the " White Lion " and 
" Golden Ball." The walls inside provide recesses 
for many tombs. The most memorable tomb in the 
church is that of an Irish soldier named Kingsmill. 
He is a fine fellow, albeit of stone, leaning on his 
elbow and looking at the world or nothing as if 
satisfied with his position. He " sleeps well " no 
man, I should say, better. This and his features 
reminded me of a man still living, a man of brawn 
and spirit, a despiser of beastly foreigners, and a 
good sleeper. I have seen him looking like old 
Kingsmill, with this one difference that when he 
was in that stage of wakingness he had a cigarette 
between his lips invariably. He awoke, smiling 
at the goodness of sleep and of the world, and lay 
back, whoever called him, to sleep again. Resur- 
rected at length, or partly so, he would sigh, 
but not in sorrow, and then swear, and turn over 
to reach a cigarette from beside the bed. The 
lighted cigarette regilded the world : he envied no 
man, any more than Kingsmill does, and certainly 
no woman. The cigarette, though enchanted, came 
to an end, even so; and he did what Kingsmill 
perhaps never did, took a cold bath, but in a 



268 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

manner which Kingsmill would have admired. The 
bath being filled to within an inch or two of 
overflowing, he let himself slowly in until he was 
completely under water, where he lay in a state 
apparently of bliss lasting many seconds, for bene- 
ficent providence had ordained that he should be 
almost as much aquatic as he was earthly, worldly, 
and territorial. Then out he came like Mars rising 
from the foam. After drying himself for ten 
minutes he lit another cigarette and rambled about 
his room without artificial covering until he had 
smoked it. Next he began dressing, an operation 
not to be described in my style in less than two 
volumes octavo, and worthy of something incom- 
parably more godlike, for he was as a god and his 
dressing was godlike. . . . After Kingsmill's effigy 
the chief spectacle of St. Mary's is the unexpected, 
big Italianate picture of Christ's descent from the 
cross, which forms an altar-piece. The story is 
that it was taken from a Spanish vessel some add 
that it was one of the Great Armada ; that it 
reached Bridgwater after a long seclusion at 
Plymouth, and was claimed by Plymouth when 
Bridgwater was seen to have it, but that Bridg- 
water kept it in a packing case for two years. 

With the quay and the church ranks the statue of 
Robert Blake, if only for the inscription, 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 269 

" Born in this town, 1598. 
Died at sea, 1657." 

I am told that there is also a passage quoted from 
one Edmund Spencer, but I did not see it ; nor is 
it so great an error as the inscription about Jefferies 
in Salisbury Cathedral, and they have less time 
in Bridgwater market-place than in Salisbury 
Cathedral for literary accuracy. 

It was half-past ten on a beautiful morning when 
I rode out of the town by a very suburban suburb 
of villas, elms, and a cemetery. My road carried 
me at first along a low ridge, so that over the 
stone walls I looked down east and northward to 
the vale of the Parrett ; a misty, not quite flat 
expanse of green, alternating with reddish and 
already crumbling ploughland, which was inter- 
rupted a mile away by the red walls, elms, and 
orchard of Chilton Trinity, and farther off, by the 
pale church tower of Cannington. Two horses 
were drawing a scarifier across the furrows of a 
field by the roadside. On my left or westward I 
looked beyond a more broken country, with white 
linen blowing on cottage garden bushes, to the dim 
Quantocks still far off. The sun was hot, but the 
wind blew from behind me, and the dust was not an 
offence when a motor car was not passing me. A 
chiff-chaff was singing at Wembdon. Larks crowded 



270 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

their songs into a maze in every quarter. Overhead 
a single telegraph wire sizzled. 

Three miles out of Bridgwater my road had 
dropped to the level, and proceeded over it to 
Cannington, but instead of sticking to it I turned 
at a smithy on my left into a by-road, which wound 
between low hedges of thorn and maple mounted 
either on ivied walls or on banks, covered with 
celandines. It passed Bradley Green's few cottages, 
the " Malt Shovel " inn, an oak copse with a chiff- 
chaff in it, and here a robin on a wall, and there a 
linnet on a thorn tip, in a slightly up and down 
country of grass, ploughland, and orchard. In a 
mile the road twisted at right angles to cross the 
Cannington brook and rejoin the main road ; and 
at this angle, by a green bowered lane, was a stone 
house and chapel in one. This was Blackmoor 
Manor Farm, a group that no longer has anything 
stately or sacred save what it owes to its antiquity 
and continuous human occupation. 

The main road, when I rejoined it, was rising 
once more between banks of gorse. So bright was 
the blossom of the gorse that its branches were 
shadowy and nearly invisible in the brightness. 
For the sun was now as warm as ever it need be 
for a man who can move himself from place to 
place. On both hands the undulating land was 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 271 

warm and misty, but particularly on the right. 
There, as I approached Swang Farm, at the third 
milestone from Nether Stowey, a hill, almost as 
graceful as Ball Hill near Stawell, rose parallel to 
the road, its long-curving ridge about a third of a 
mile away. Its smooth flank was apportioned by 
hedgerows and a few elms among bare ploughland 
and young corn above, and drabby grass with 
sheep on it below. Near by, on the other side, was 
another such hill, a nameless one above Halsey 
Cross Farm, which I first took notice of when it was 
cut in two perpendicularly by the signpost pointing 
to Spaxton. It was but a blunt, conical hillside 
of green corn, rosy ploughland, sheep-fed pasture, 
and a few elms in the partitions ; and behind it the 
dim Quantocks. Between these two hills, at a 
spot where the road twists again at right angles, a 
brick summer-house perched on the walled roadside 
bank, at the very corner. Here, as I heard, a few 
generations ago, ladies from the house near by 
used to sit to watch for the coaches. I was now 
two hundred feet up in the foothills of the Quan- 
tocks. Three or four miles in front bulked the 
moorlands of the main ridge. 

Nether Stowey begins with a church and a farm 
and farmyard in a group. Then follows a street of 
cottages without front gardens, dominated by a 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

smooth green " castle " rampart a third of a mile 
away. The street ends in a " First and Last Inn " 
on one side, and a cottage on the other, announced 
as formerly Coleridge's by an inscription and a 
stone wreath of dull reddish brown. Altogether 
Nether Stowey offered no temptations to be com- 
pared with those of the road leading out of it. 
Immediately outside the village it was walled by 
deep banks, and on these grew arum, celandine, and 
nettle, with bushes of new-leaved blackthorn and 
spindle. Here I saw the first starry, white stitch- 
worts or milkmaids. And henceforward I was 
always walking steeply up or steeply down one of 
the medley of lesser hills. Below on the right was 
chiefly red ploughland ; above on the left wilder 
and wilder heights of sheep-fed moorland. The 
road was visible ahead, looping half way up the 
slopes. 

Honeysuckle ramped on the banks of the deep- 
worn road in such profusion as I had never before 
seen. The sky had clouded softly, and the sun- 
warmed misty woods of the coombs, the noise of 
slender waters threading them, the exuberant young 
herbage, the pure flowers such as stitchwort and 
the pink and " silver white " cuckoo flowers, but 
above all the abounding honeysuckle, produced an 
effect of wildness and richness, purity and softness, 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 273 

so vivid that the association of Nether Stowey was 
hardly needed to summon up Coleridge. The 
mere imagination of what these banks would be like 
when the honeysuckle was in flower was enough 
to suggest the poet. I became fantastic, and said 
to myself that the honeysuckle was worthy to 
provide the honeydew for nourishing his genius ; 
even that its magic might have touched that genius 
to life which is absurd. And yet magic alone 
could have led Coleridge safely through the style 
of his age, the style of the author of Jolliffe's 
epitaph at Kilmersdon, the style of Stephen Duck 
and his benefactors, the style of his own boyish 
effusions, where he personified Misfortune, Love, 
Wisdom, Virtue, Fortune, and Content with the 
aid of capitals. He fell again when weary into lines 
like, 

" Thro' vales irriguous, and thro' green retreats ; " 

he rose and fell once more, until finally the conven- 
tions had either slipped away or been adopted or 
subdued. Perhaps it was not in vain, or so fatuous 
as it seems to us, that he personified, like any 
lady or gentleman of the day, 

" The hideous offspring of Disease, 
Swoln Dropsy ignorant of Kest, 

And Fever garb'd in scarlet vest ; 
18 



274 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Consumption driving the quick hearse, 
And Gout that howls the frequent curse ; 
"With Apoplex of heavy head 
That surely aims his dart of lead." 

Whether we can follow him or not into intimacy 
with those " beings of higher class than man," Fire, 
Famine, Slaughter, Woes, and Young-eyed Joys, 
the more or less than fleshly creatures of his later 
poems may owe something to that early dressing 
up, as well as to the honeydew-fed raptures of 
Nether Stowey. 

Some of the early poems reveal underneath the 
dismal tawdry vesture of contemporary diction the 
beginnings of what we now know as Coleridge. It 
is to be seen in the sonnet, " To the Autumnal 
Moon," written in 1788 when he was sixteen, which 
begins, 

"Mild Splendour of the various- vested Night, 
Mother of wildly- working visions hail ; " 

and then again more subtly in 1795, when he is 
looking for a Pantisocratic dell, 

" Where Virtue calm with careless step may stray, 
And dancing to the moonlight roundelay, 
The Wizard Passions weave an holy spell "... 

though it is impossible to say that the collocation 
of calm and careless, wizard and holy, would have 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 275 

arrested us had Coleridge made no advance from 
it, had he remained a minor poet. The combination 
of mild and wild is a characteristic one, partly 
instinctive, partly an intellectual desire, as he 
shows by speaking of a " soft impassioned voice, 
correctly wild." The two come quaintly together 

in his image of, 

" Affection meek 
(Her bosom bare, and wildly pale her cheek)," 

and nobly in the picture of Joan of Arc, 

" Bold her mien, 

And like a haughty huntress of the woods 
She moved : yet sure she was a gentle maid." 

Coleridge loved equally mildness and wildness, as 
I saw them on the one hand in the warm red fields, 
the gorse smouldering with bloom, the soft de- 
licious greenery of the banks ; and on the other hand 
in the stag's home, the dark, bleak ridges of heather 
or pine, the deep-carved coombs. Mildness, meek- 
ness, gentleness, softness, made appeals both sen- 
suous and spiritual to the poet's chaste and volup- 
tuous affections and to something homely in him, 
while his spirituality, responding to the wildness, 
branched forth into metaphysics and natural magic. 
Some time passed before the combining was com- 
plete. There was, for example, a tendency to 



276 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

naivett and plainness, to the uninspired accuracy 
of " pinky-silver skin " (of a birch tree), and to 
the matter of fact 

" The Mariners gave it biscuit worms " 

which he cut out of " The Ancient Mariner." He 
cut out of " This Lime-tree Bower my Prison," a 
phrase informing us that he was kept prisoner by 
a burn. At first he called " the grand old ballad of 
Sir Patrick Spens " the " dear old ballad," and the 

lines, 

" Yon crescent Moon is fixed as if it grew 
In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue " 

were followed by 

" A boat becalm'd, a lovely sky-canoe " 

It was natural to him at first to address Wordsworth 
as 

" Friend ! Teacher ! God's great gift to me ! " 

and it became natural to him to cut out the last 
phrase. Formerly Geraldine said to Christabel, 
" I'm better now " ; and instead of lying entranced 
she lay " in fits." The poem still includes the 
phrase describing Christabel's eyes, 

" Each about to have a tear ; " 
while " Frost at Midnight " retains the allusion to 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 277 

the " fluttering stranger " in the fire, the filmy blue 
flame, as a note instructs us, " supposed to portend 
the arrival of some absent friend." There is, too, 
a whole class of homely poems, on receiving the 
news of his child's birth, on being warned not to 
bathe in the sea : " God be with thee, gladsome 
Ocean," it begins. 

The mildness, meekness, gentleness, beloved of 
Coleridge's tender and effusive nature, appear with 
such diverse company as in " Poverty's meek woe," 
" mild and manliest melancholy," and " mild moon- 
mellow'd foliage," and repeated with variations four 
times in one verse of the lines written at Shurton 
Bars, near Bridgwater, 

" I felt it prompt the tender Dream, 
When slowly sank the Day's last gleam ; 

You rous'd each gentler sense, 
As sighing o'er the Blossom's bloom 
Meek Evening wakes its soft perfume 

With viewless influence." 

Sometimes the mildness expands to conscious 
luxury, as in the poem " Composed during Illness, 
and in Absence," beginning, 

" Dim Hour, that sleep'st on pillowing clouds afar, 
rise and yoke the Turtles to thy car ! 
Bend o'er the traces, blame each lingering Dove, 
And give me to the bosom of my Love 1 



278 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

My gentle Love, caressing and carest, 
With heaving heart shall carol me to rest ! 
Shed the warm tear-drop from her smiling eyes 
Lull with fond woe, and medicine me with sighs, 
While finely-flushing float her kisses meek, 
Like melted rubies o'er my pallid cheek." 

Here he is half laughing at his own tendency, but 
he had only transitory thoughts of checking it. 
In " Reflections on having left a Place of Retire- 
ment," he speaks of dreaming, 

" On rose-leaf beds, pampering the coward heart 
With feelings all too delicate for use." 

He is in revolt against the tendency, but only with 
his intellect. The honeysuckle intoxicates his 
heart too surely under the " indulgent skies " of 
that summer with Wordsworth. 

A marked variety of his luxury is disclosed by 
his many references to the maiden's bosom and the 
swelling of it with emotion. I choose the following 
example because it includes so much that is charac- 
teristic besides, 

" Oft will I tell thee, Minstrel of the Moon, 
' Most musical, most melancholy ' Bird 1 
That all thy soft diversities of tune, 
Tho' sweeter far than the delicious airs 
That vibrate from a white-armed Lady's harp, 
What time the languishment of lonely love 
Melts in her eye, and heaves her breast of snow, 






BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 279 

Are not so sweet as is the voice of her, 

My Sara best beloved of human kind ! 

When breathing the pure soul of tenderness, 

She thrills me with the Husband's promised name ! " 

This quality is more effective in company with 
the other quality and relieved by it. I mean the 
quality which responds to ghostliness and to the 
wildness of Nature. " The Keepsake " has it 
perfect, in this picture of a girl, 

" In the cool morning twilight, early waked 
By her full bosom's joyous restlessness, 
Softly she rose, and lightly stole along, 
Down the slope coppice to the woodbine bower, 
Whose rich flowers, swinging in the morning breeze, 
Over their dim, fast-moving shadows hung, 
Making a quiet image of disquiet 
In the smooth, scarcely-moving river-pool." 

It is perfect again, differently combined, in part of 
" The ^Eolian Harp,"- 

" The long sequacious notes 
Over delicious surges sink and rise, 
Such a soft floating witchery of sound 
As twilight elfins make, when they at eve 
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land, 
Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers, 
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise, 
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untam'd wing ! " 

The work of this best period, the Quantock 



280 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

sojourn, shows this uniting of richness and delicacy, 
of sweetness and freshness, of sensuousness and 
wildness, of spirit and sense, irresistibly intruding 
on " Religious Musings," as here, 

" When in some hour of solemn jubilee 
The massy gates of Paradise are thrown 
Wide open, and forth come in fragments wild 
Sweet echoes of unearthly melodies 
And odours snatched from beds of Amaranth, 
And they, that from the crystal river of life 
Spring up on freshened wing, ambrosial gales ; " 

or, as in " Christabel " and " The Ancient Mariner," 
both written in the Quantocks, raised again and 
again to a peculiar harmony from the innermost 
parts of our poetry's holy of holies. 

Except for Coleridge, I had the road to myself 
between Nether Stowey and Holford. Sheep 
were feeding on some of the slopes, and in one 
coomb woodmen were trimming cordwood among 
prostrate regiments of oak trees ; but these eaters 
of grass, or of bread and cheese and bacon, were 
ghosts by comparison with the man who wrote 
" The Ancient Mariner ; " the very hills, their 
chasms and processions of beeches, were made 
unforgettable by his May opium dream of 

" That deep romantic chasm which slanted 
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover ! 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 281 

A savage place as holy and enchanted 

As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted 

By woman wailing for her demon lover." 

Then the sea. At a mile past Holford the road 
bent sharp to the left and west, to get between the 
sea and the Quantocks. A sign-board pointed to 
the right to Stringston's red-roofed white church. 
On the left two converging hillsides framed a wedge 
of sea, divided into parallel bands of gray and blue. 
It came as if it were a reward, an achievement, the 
unsuspected aim of my meanderings. A long drift 
of smoke lay over it from the seaward edge of the 
hills. The bottom of the wedge held the village of 
Kilve, and, a little apart, the cube of Kilve Court. 
As if to a goal I raced downhill to Kilve and its 
brook. 

I had lunch at the " Hood Arms," and made up 
my mind to stay there for that night. Two o'clock 
had not long passed when I left the inn and the 
main road and went north to Kilve Church and 
the sea. The by-road accompanied the brook, and 
skirted its apple orchards and tall poplars wagging 
myriads of wine-red catkins. Having passed a mill, 
a farm, and a cottage or two, the road took me to 
the church and its big, short-boughed yew tree, and 
became a farm track only. The small towered 
church is a poor place, clean and newly repointed 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

outside, the arches filled in which had apparently 
communicated with a side chapel, and all its 
possible crosses lacking. Inside it has a cheap 
rickety gallery at the tower end, and was being 
stripped of its plaster to show the wood carving at 
the cornice. Tablets hang on the wall in memory of 
people named Cunditt and Sweeting, and of Norah 
Muriel Sweet-Escott, aged twenty, who died in 
South Africa of yellow fever. As I was leaving the 
church, entered the Other Man. Laughing nervously 
at the encounter, he explained that he had come to 
Kilve to see if it really had a weather-cock. He 
reminded me of Wordsworth's " Anecdote for 
Fathers," where the poet pesters his son of five to 
give his reason for preferring Liswyn to Kilve, 
until, a broad, gilded vane catching his eye, the 
child gives the inspired answer, 

** At Kilve there is no weather-cock ; 
And that's the reason why." 

" There is no weather-cock," said the Other Man, 
laughing a little more freely and disappearing for 
the last time. A white-fronted farm-house, the 
heavily ivy-mantled ruin of a chantry adjacent, 
green mounds of long submerged masonry, and a 
big knobby poplar with wine-red catkins, are next 
neighbours to the church, a stone's throw from the 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 

churchyard. The chantry has come to this by 
several stages. Part of it, for example, has been 
used as a dwelling, and adapted to the purpose 
by makeshift methods, which now add a sordid, 
contumelious element to the ruins. Fowls pecked 
about the chambers in the dust, in the bramble, ivy, 
and nettles. The big poplar stands, or, rather, 
reclines just off the ground, between the chantry 
and the brook. The running water led me sea- 
ward, through a tangled thicket of scrub oak, gorse, 
and bramble, filled in with teasel and burdock, 
and through a small marshy flag-bed. A low cliff, 
pierced by the stream, separates the beach from 
the rough, undulating, briery pasture. This cliff 
of sand and rock gave me shelter from the wind ; 
the flat gray pebbles gave me a seat ; and I looked 
out to sea. 

A ragged sky hung threatening over a sea that 
was placid but corrugated and of the colour of 
slate, having a margin of black at the horizon. The 
water was hardly distinguishable, save by its 
motion, from the broad beach of gray pools, black- 
ened pebbles, and low rock edges. Only the most 
fleeting and narrow lights fell upon the expanse, 
now on a solitary sail, now on the pale lighthouse 
of Flat Holm far out. Between this island, which 
just broke the surface of the sea on the left, and 



284 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Brean Down, the last outpost of the mainland 
on the right, the cloudy pile of Steep Holm 
towered up. 

Not even the sea could altogether detain the eyes 
from the land scene westward ; for there massed 
and jostled themselves together the main emi- 
nences of Exmoor, of a uniform gray, soft and un- 
moulded, that was lost from time to time either 
in the wild, hurrying, and fitfully gleaming sky, or 
in tawny smoke rolling low down from the Quan- 
tocks seaward. Hardly less sublime was the long, 
clear-cut ridge between me and Exmoor, low but 
precipitous, projecting into the sea a mile or two 
distant, and bearing a dark church tower like a 
horn. The fire on the Quantocks now burnt 
scarlet. 

The Kilve brook on my left was noisily twisting 
over the pebbles and the slanting, gray, mossy- 
weeded rock down to the sea, tossing up a light but 
unceasing spray ; and pied wagtails flitted from the 
fresh water to the salt over the rocks. But what I 
was most glad to see was the meadow pipit. Feebly, 
like a minor lark, and silently, he launched himself 
twenty or thirty feet up from the wet, dark rock ; 
then, with wings uplifted and body curved to a 
keel like a crescent, he descended slantwise, singing 
the most passionate and thrilling- sweet of all songs 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 285 

that " o'er inform this tenement of clay " until he 
alighted. Before one had finished another began, 
and not a moment was the song silenced. Here, 
too, and among the briers of the rough pasture 
behind the cliff, the wheatear, as clean as a star, 
flirted his tail and showed his whiteness. 

Over Exmoor storm and sun quarrelled in the 
cauldron, but here only one drop fell on each dry, 
warm pebble and vanished. The wind slackened ; 
the heat grew; the warm, soft gray sky closed in 
and imprisoned the air which the earth breathed. 
It was pleasant to get hot out of doors in March. It 
was pleasant to bicycle up out of Kilve and away 
west on the Minehead road, which carried me well up 
round the end of the Quantocks. I took the second 
turning seaward for East Quantoxhead. The 
cottage gardens in this lane were rich in wall- 
flowers, daffodils, and jonquils ; and japonica was 
blood-red on the walls. Still better were the hedges 
past the few cottages, because they were green 
entirely, and were the first I had seen so in that 
spring. Nor were they mere thorn or elder 
hedges, but interwoven elm, thorn, brier, and 
elder, all with their young leaves expanded. But 
the heat was already great, and I was going down- 
hill too much not to reflect that I should have to 
come up again. The pale Court House and con- 



286 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

tiguous church of East Quantoxhead, homes of the 
living and of the dead Luttrells for many centuries, 
as men go, were still a quarter of a mile away across 
a wide meadow with oak trees, and I never got 
nearer. I turned instead along a hedged, stony lane 
upon the left. It soon created a suspicion that I 
ought not to have taken it. I stuck to it, however, 
uphill and then precipitously down under un- 
trimmed hedges, where it was no better than a 
river bed of mud and stones, until it ceased to 
exist, having emerged into the fields which it 
served. As I refused to return, I had to ascend 
along the edges of several ploughed fields and 
among sheepfolds and through gateways before I 
recovered the main road at about the sixth mile- 
stone from Nether Stowey. The heat, the climbing 
with a bicycle, and, above all, the useless, indignant 
impatience of annoyance, tired me ; yet I rode on 
westward. The gorse was beautiful on the hills 
above, and in the old sandstone quarries beside the 
road. The sides of these quarries were bearded with 
it, their floors were carpeted with gilt moss, out of 
which rose up straight young larch trees in freshest 
green. At the head of a deep coomb of oak and 
foxglove the rock had been cut away for the widen- 
ing of the road, and from the newly exposed sand- 
stone hundreds of the rough rosettes of foxglove 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 287 

had broken forth ; but a smooth slab had been 
devoted to an advertisement of somebody's flock 
of long-woolled Devon sheep. 

The approach to West Quantoxhead and the 
great house of St. Audries was lined by fences, 
and I rode down past them with dread of the 
dismal walk back again. But at the foot the fence 
came to an end. The pale gorsy turf of the deer 
park fell away on the right to the great house and 
its protecting woods. Daffodils and primroses were 
thick on the left-hand slopes. And there was a 
fountain of ever-running water at the roadside. 
I took the water inwardly and outwardly, and no 
longer troubled about the difficulty of ascent and 
return, even when I found myself slipping down 
hill for two miles into Williton. The high beacons 
of Exmoor were hanging before me, scarfed and 
coifed by clouds of the sunset, and grand were 
these half-earthly and half-aerial heights, but lovelier 
was the gentle hill much nearer and a little to the 
left of my course. For the sun, sinking on the right 
side of it, blessed and honoured this hill above all 
other hills. Both its woods and pastures were burn- 
ing subduedly with a mild orange fire, without being 
consumed. It was the marriage of heaven and 
earth. The grim beacons behind guarded the couch. 
A white farm below was as white as moonlight. 



288 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

Williton begins with a railway station and a 
workhouse, yet the first half mile of it is a street 
without a shop, of white or pale-washed, often 
thatched cottages and small houses, each sepa- 
rated from the road by flowery gardens of various 
breadths, some mere flowery strips, all good. To 
the fact that it was on the main road from Mine- 
head to Bridgwater it was as indifferent as to the 
marriage of heaven and earth. The straight road 
was smooth, pale, and empty. Where it runs into 
another road, as the down stroke runs into the 
cross stroke of a T, and has a signpost to Watchet 
on the right, Bicknoller and Minehead on the left, 
the shops begin. Here, though it was six, and not- 
withstanding the marriage of heaven and earth, 
I had tea, and furthermore ate cream with a spoon, 
until I had had almost as much as I desired. 

Now although I had seemed to be riding continu- 
ally downhill into Williton, I found it nearly all 
downhill back to Kilve. The road was like a 
stream on which I floated in the shadows of trees 
and steep hillsides. The light was slowly depart- 
ing, and still on some of the slopes the compact 
gorse bushes were like flocks of golden fleeces. 
Robins and blackbirds sang while bats were flitting 
about me. Day was not dead but sleeping, and 
the few stars overhead asked silence. By the turn- 



BRIDGWATER TO THE SEA. 

ing to East Quantoxhead some cottagers talked in 
low tones. Kilve, dark and quiet, showed one or 
two faint lights. Only when I lay in bed did I 
recognize the two sounds that made the murmurous 
silence of Kilve the whisper of its brook, and the 
bleat of sheep very far off. 



19 



X. 



THE GRAVE OF WINTER. 

Y\77HEN I awoke at six the light was good, but it 
^* was the light of rain. One thrush alone was 
singing, a few starlings whistled. And the rain 
lasted until half -past eight. Then the sunlight en- 
shrined itself in the room, the red road glistened, 
a Lombardy poplar at Kilve Court waved against 
a white sky only a little blemished by gray, and I 
started again westward. The black stain of yester- 
day's fire on the hill was very black, the new privet 
leaves very green, and the stitchwort very white 
in the arches of the drenched grass. The end of the 
rain, as I hoped, was sung away by missel-thrushes 
in the roadside oaks, by a chain of larks' songs 
which must have reached all over England. 

I had some thoughts of branching off on one of 
the green lanes to the left, that would have led me 
past a thatched cottage or two up to the ridge of 
the Quantocks, to Stowborrow Hill, Beacon Hill, 
Thorncombe Hill, Great Hill, Will's Neck, Lydeard 



THE GRAVE OF WINTER. 291 

Hill, Cothelstone Hill, and down to Taunton ; but 
I kept to my road of last night as far as West Quan- 
toxhead. There, beyond the fountain, I entered 
the road between ranks of lime trees towards Stog- 
umber. Before I had gone a mile the rain re- 
turned, and made the roads so bad that I had to 
take to the highway from Williton to Taunton, and 
so saw no more of Bicknoller than its brown tower. 
But I had hopes of the weather, and the rain did no 
harm to the flowers of periwinkle and laurustinus 
in the hedges I was passing, and only added a sort 
of mystery of inaccessibleness to the west wall of 
the Quantocks, with which I was now going parallel. 
It was a wall coloured in the main by ruddy dead 
bracken and dark gorse, but patched sometimes 
with cultivated strips and squares of green, and 
trenched by deep coombs of oak, and by the shallow, 
winding channels of streams streams not of water 
but of the most emerald grass. Seagulls mingled 
with the rooks in the nearer fields. The only people 
on the road were road-menders working with a 
steam-roller ; the corduroys of one were stained so 
thoroughly by the red mud of the Quantocks, and 
shaped so excellently by wear to his tall, spare 
figure, that they seemed to be one with the man. 
It reminded me of " Lee Boo," and how the Pelew 
Islanders doubted whether the clothes and bodies 



IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

of the white men did not " form one substance," 
and when one took off his hat they were struck with 
astonishment, " as if they thought it had formed 
part of his head." 

The rain ceased just soon enough not to prove 
again the vanity of waterproofs. I have, it is true, 
discovered several which have brought me through 
a storm dry in parts, but I have also discovered 
that sellers of waterproofs are among the worst of 
liars, and that they communicate their vice with 
their goods. The one certain fact is that nobody 
makes a garment or suit which will keep a man 
both dry and comfortable if he is walking in heavy 
and beating rain. Suits of armour have, of course, 
been devised to resist ram, but at best they admit 
it at the neck. The ordinary (and extraordinary) 
waterproof may keep a man dry from neck to 
groin, though it is improbable exceedingly that 
both neck and wrists will escape. As for the legs, 
the rain gets at the whole of them with the aid 
of wind and capillary attraction. Whoever wore 
a coat that kept his knees dry in a beating 
rain ? I am not speaking of waterproof tubes 
reaching to the feet. They may be sold, they may 
even be bought. They may be useful, but not for 
walking in. 

For moderate showers one waterproof is about 



THE GRAVE OF WINTER. 

as good as another. The most advertised have the 
advantage of being expensive, and conferring dis- 
tinction otherwise : they are no better, and wear 
worse, than a thing at two-thirds of the price 
which is never advertised at all. In such a one 
I was riding now, and I got wet only at the ankles. 
It actually kept my knees dry in the heavy rain 
near Timsbury. But if I had been walking I 
should have been intolerably hot and embarrassed 
in this, and very little less so in the lighter, more 
distinguished, more expensive garment. Supposing 
that a thorough waterproof exists, so light as to be 
comfortable in mild weather, it is certain to have 
the grave disadvantage of being easily tearable, 
and therefore of barring the wearer from woods. 

Getting the body wet even in cold weather is 
delicious, but getting clothes and parts of the body 
wet, especially about and below the knee, is de- 
testable. Trousers, and still more breeches, when 
wet through, prove unfriendly to man, and in some 
degree to boy. If the knees were free and the feet 
bare, I should think there would be no impediment 
left to bliss for an active man in shower or storm, 
except that he would provoke, evoke, and convoke 
laughter, and ninety-nine out of a hundred would 
prefer to this all the evils of rain and of water- 
proofs. It is to save our clothes and to lessen 



294 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

the discomfort of them that a waterproof is 
added. 

At first thought, it is humiliating to realize that 
we have spent many centuries in this climate and 
never produced anything to keep us dry and com- 
fortable in rain. But who are we that complain ? 
Not farmers, labourers, and fishermen, but people 
who spend much time out of doors by choice. We 
can go indoors when it rains ; only, we do not 
wish to, because so many of the works of rain are 
good in the skies, on the earth, in the souls of 
men and also of birds. When youth is over we are 
not carried away by our happiness so far as to 
ignore soaked boots and trousers. We like has- 
socks to kneel on, and on those hassocks we pray 
for a waterproof. As the prayer is only about a 
hundred years old a hundred years ago there were 
no such beings it is not surprising that the answer 
has not arrived from that distant quarter. Real 
outdoor people have either to do without water- 
proofs, or what they use would disable us from 
our pleasures. Naturally, they have done nothing 
to solve our difficulties. They have not written 
poetry for us, they have not made waterproofs for us. 
They do not read our poetry, they do not wear our 
waterproofs. We must solve the question by com- 
plaint and experiment, or by learning to go wet an 



THE GRAVE OF WINTER. 295 

increasingly hard lesson for a generation that mul- 
tiplies conveniences and inconveniences rather 
faster than it does an honest love of sun, wind, 
and rain, separately and all together. 

By the time I reached Crowcombe, the sun was 
bright. This village, standing at the entrance to a 
great cloudy coomb of oaks and pine trees, is a 
thatched street containing the " Carew Arms," a 
long, white inn having a small porch, and over it a 
signboard bearing a coat of arms and the words 
" J'espere bien." The street ends in a cross, a 
tall, slender, tapering cross of stone, iron-brown and 
silver- spotted. Here also sang a chiff chaff, like a 
clock rapidly ticking. The church is a little beyond, 
near the rookery of Crowcombe Court. Its red 
tower on the verge of the high roadside bank is set 
at the north-west corner in such a way perhaps it 
is not quite at right angles that I looked again 
and again up to it, as at a man in a million. 

After passing Flaxpool, a tiny cluster of dwellings 
and ricks, with a rough, rising orchard, then a new- 
made road with a new signpost to Bridgwater, 
and then a thatched white inn called the " Stag's 
Head," I turned off for West Bagborough, setting 
my face toward the wooded flank of Bagborough 
Hill. Bagborough Church and Bagborough House 
stand at the edge of the wood. The village houses 



296 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

either touch the edge of the road, or, where it is 
very steep, lie back behind walls which were hang- 
ing their white and purple clouds of alyssum and 
aubretia down to the wayside water. Rain threat- 
ened again, and I went into the inn to eat and see 
what would happen. Two old men sat in the 
small settle at the fireside talking of the cold 
weather, for so they deemed it. Bent, grinning, 
old men they were, using rustic, deliberate, grave 
speech, as they drank their beer and ate a few 
fancy biscuits. One of them was so old that never 
in his life had he done a stroke of gardening on 
a Good Friday ; he knew a woman that did so 
once when he was a lad, and she perished shortly 
after in great pain. His own wife, even now, was 
on her death-bed ; she had eaten nothing for weeks, 
and was bad-tempered, though still sensible. But 
when the rain at last struck the window like a 
swarm of bees, and the wind drove the smoke out 
into the room, the old man was glad to be where 
he was, not out of doors or up in the death room. 
His talk was mostly of the weather, and his beans, 
and his peas, which he was so pleased with that he 
was going to send over half a pint of them to the 
other old man. The biscuits they were eating set 
him thinking of better biscuits. For example, now, 
a certain kind made formerly at Watchet was very 



THE GRAVE OF WINTER. 297 

good. But the best of all were Half Moon biscuits. 
They had a few caraways in them, which they did 
not fear, because, old as they were, they were not 
likely to have leisure for appendicitis. Half a one 
in your cup of tea in the morning would plim out 
and fill the cup. They told me the street, the side 
of the street, the shop, its neighbours on either 
side, in Taunton, where I might hope to buy Half 
Moon biscuits even in the twentieth century. The 
whitening sky and the drops making the window 
pane dazzle manifested the storm's end, and the 
old men thought of the stag hounds, which were 
to meet that day. . . . Just above Bagborough 
there, seven red stags had been seen, not so long 
ago. 

It was hot again at last as I climbed away from 
the valley and its gently sloping green and rosy 
squares and elmy hedges, up between high, loose 
banks of elder and brier, and much tall arum, 
nettle, and celandine, and one plant of honesty 
from the last cottage garden. High as it was, the 
larch coppice on the left far up had a chiffchaff 
singing in it, and honeysuckle still interwove 
itself in the gorse and holly of the roadside. A 
parallel, deep-worn, green track mounted the hill, 
close on my right, and there was a small square 
ruin covered with ivy above it among pine trees. It 



298 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

was not the last building. A hundred feet up, in a 
slight dip, I came to a farm-house, Tilbury Farm. 
Both sides of the road there are lined by mossy banks 
and ash and beech trees, and deep below, southward, 
on the right hand, I saw through the trees the gray 
mass of Cothelstone Manor-house beside its lake, 
and twelve miles off in the same direction the 
Wellington obelisk on the Black Down Hills. A 
stone seat on the other side of the trees commands 
both the manor house beneath and the distant obe- 
lisk. The seat is in an arched-over recess in the 
thickness of a square wall of masonry, six or seven 
feet in height and breadth. A coeval old haw- 
thorn, spare and solitary, sticks out from the base 
of the wall. The whole is surmounted by a classic 
stone statue of an emasculated man larger than 
human, nude except for some drapery falling be- 
hind, long-haired, with left arm uplifted, and under 
its feet a dog ; and it looks straight over at the 
obelisk. I do not know if the statue and the obe- 
lisk are connected, nor, if so, whether the statue 
represents the Iron Duke, his king, or a classic 
deity ; the mutilation is against the last possibility. 
Had the obelisk not been so plainly opposite, I 
should have taken the figure for some sort of a 
god, the ponderous, rustic- classic fancy of a former 
early nineteenth-century owner of Cothelstone 



THE GRAVE OF WINTER. 299 

Manor. The statue and masonry, darkened and 
bitten by weather, in that high, remote, command- 
ing place, has in any case long outgrown the original 
conception and intention, and become a classi- 
rustical, romantic what-you-please, waiting for its 
poet or prose poet. I should have liked very well, 
on such a day, in such a position, to think it a 
Somerset Pan or Apollo, but could not. It was 
mainly pathetic and partly ridiculous. In the 
mossy bank behind it the first woodsorrel flower 
drooped its white face among primroses and green 
moschatel knobs ; they made the statue, lacking 
ivy and moss, seem harsh and crude. Some way 
farther on, where the beeches on that hand come 
to an end, two high stout pillars, composed of alter- 
nate larger and smaller layers of masonry, stand 
gateless and as purposeless as the king, duke, or 
god. 

For a while I rested in a thatched shed at the 
summit, 997 feet up, where the road turns at right 
angles and makes use of the ridge track of the 
Quantocks. A roller made of a fir trunk gave me 
a seat, and I looked down this piece of road, which 
is lined by uncommonly bushy beeches, and over at 
Cothelstone Hill, a dome of green and ruddy grasses 
in the south-east, sprinkled with thorn trees and 
capped by the blunt tower of a beacon. The 



300 IN PURSUIT OF SPRING. 

primrose roots hard by me had each sufficient 
flowers to make a child's handful. 

Turning to the left again, when the signpost de- 
clared it seven and three-quarter miles to Bridg- 
water, I found myself on a glorious sunlit road 
without hedge, bank, or fence on either side, pro- 
ceeding through fern, gorse, and ash trees scat- 
tered over mossy slopes. Down the slopes I looked 
across the flat valley to the Mendips and Brent 
Knoll, and to the Steep and Flat Holms, resting 
like clouds on a pale, cloudy sea ; what is more, 
through a low-arched rainbow I saw the blueness of 
the hills of South Wales. The sun had both dried 
the turf and warmed it. The million gorse petals 
seemed to be flames sown by the sun. By the side 
of the road were the first bluebells and cowslips. 
They were not growing there, but some child had 
gathered them below at Stowey or Durleigh, and 
then, getting tired of them, had dropped them. 
They were beginning to wilt, but they lay upon 
the grave of Winter. I was quite sure of that. 
Winter may rise up through mould alive with vio- 
lets and primroses and daffodils, but when cowslips 
and bluebells have grown over his grave he cannot 
rise again: he is dead and rotten, and from his 
ashes the blossoms are springing. Therefore, I was 
very glad to see them. Even to have seen them on 



THE GRAVE OF WINTER. 301 

a railway station seat in the rain, brought from far 
off on an Easter Monday, would have been some- 
thing; here, in the sun, they were as if they had 
been fragments fallen out of that rainbow over 
against Wales. I had found Winter's grave ; I had 
found Spring, and I was confident that I could ride 
home again and find Spring all along the road. 
Perhaps I should hear the cuckoo by the time I 
was again at the Avon, and see cowslips tall on 
ditchsides and short on chalk slopes, bluebells in 
all hazel copses, orchises everywhere in the length- 
ening grass, and flowers of rosemary and crown- 
imperial in cottage gardens, and in the streets of 
London cowslips, bluebells, and the unflower-like 
yellow-green spurge. . . . Thus I leapt over April 
and into May, as I sat in the sun on the north side 
of Cothelstone Hill on that 28th day of March, the 
last day of my journey westward to find the Spring. 



THE END. 






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